How To Grow Mooli (Raphanus sativus var. longipinnatus) AKA Daikon, Japanese Radish, White Radish, Winter Radish, Oriental Radish, or Long White Radish is a Winter Grown Asian Veg.
I’ve recently been asked How To Grow Mooli. Fortunately it’s an easy crop to grow provided you recognise it’s really a winter veg and doesn’t like it too hot. Mooli is native to East Asia but is now widely grown in South Asia as well as Europe and North America. It’s a mild tasting fast growing radish with long white roots that are botanically described as being napiform. I.e. it is considered to be napus or turnip like. Personally I don’t find the long whiter roots at all turnip-like as turnips are more globe shaped. They are more parsnip shape than anything else.
The flavour is often described as mild but slightly peppery like watercress. It looks a bit like fresh horseradish and can be eaten raw to cooked. This versatility has led to it being used in an increasing number of ways and in cuisines beyond Chinese and Japanese dishes.
The first image omn this page is a large mooli weighing 800g (1.75lb) with my hand for scale. It demonstrates how large mooli can get. They are a very low cost and productive crop. This specific mooli was sown in late winter outdoors and was harvested on May 18th.
How To Grow Mooli
It’s a relatively easy crop to grow. I see people saying it can be sown any time but I prefer to grow it in the colder months. So sowing in late summer or early autumn for earlier crops or as late as early spring can work. Some seed companies recommend sowing and early as May. This might work but if it gets to hot the bolting risk is significantly increased. They also suggest the last sowing date is autumn. My experience is that the crop will germinate all winter provided the temperature is a few degrees above freezing.
I’m also told the mooli can’t stand frost in the seedling stage. However, mine have taken several days at -6C in my greenhouse without problems. And once it gets a few true leaves it seems to thrive on cold weather.
The seed is a good size, similar to all radish, and can be handled as single seeds. That means you can sow one per station in the soil or pots and not need to thin them out. Germination rates are high. Mine was 100% last autumn.
Some people start them on moist tissues and then transplant but to me that’s a lot of faff and I’d not bother with the extra work. My way it to sow about half an inch down. So make a drill (furrow) to drop seed in or just push them into the compost in pots .. whatever suits you. But ensure the compost or soil is moist. Watering prior to sowing is a good idea if the conditions are dry.
After that I just leave the plants alone to get on with it. I don’t add fertiliser unless is know the compost is deficient. And I don’t thin the plants out.
The ideal spacing in my experience is about 4-6 inches between plants. The plants are quite big and need that much space if they are going to produce good roots. Any closer and the toots will be much smaller. And much further apart and you leave room for the weeds to come through. (Remember, efficient gardeners often look lazy because they don’t weed etc. The reason being they let plants compete with weeds and use other techniques to subdue the weeds.)
Now just let the mooli grow until you want to harvest them.
How To Grow Mooli: Germination Temperatures & Times
Books and seed merchants vary in their advice. But all agree radish is a fast germinator. In warm conditions I expect to see radish above ground in 4-5 days. They take a bit longer when its cool. But even at low temperatures often they seem to be up in 10-14 day. Mooli seem particularly hardy and able to take lower temperatures in their stride. Many sources say the minimum germination temperature should be 12C/55F. In my experienced they still germinate when the temperature drops to 2-3C. They just take a bit longer.
When Are Mooli Ready For Harvest?
New gardeners often worry a lot about when crops are ready for harvest. So I’ve invented a simple mooli harvesting rule. Mooli are ready for harvest when they are big enough to eat! You could harvest a few when they are just finger size. I sometimes do if I need mooli for a recipe. Others I leave to grow bigger and harvest when I need them. The big varieties will grow a foot long before harvest.
Can Mooli Be Stored Once Harvested?
Yes. They can also be left in the ground where conditions suit and will sit there for months. If you need that bit of ground for another crop you can lift them and store them in a frost fee place. Some people suggest in damp sand, Others say put them in bags to keep the light out and store them somewhere cool.
My suggestion is that you experiment and see what works for you.
How To Grow Mooli As A Soil Improver
Because mooli has a log tap root it can be used to improve soil. Sown outdoors in autumn it can act as a cover crop and will push its way deep underground. Once it’s found its way deep into the soil it starts to expand and will crack any hard pans.
In the US farmers now use “Tillage Radish” to break hard soils, bring nutrients from deep down and for grazing. One site I read said, “The nutrients absorbed by the taproot are readily available to the following cash crop because the taproot is mostly water and desiccates and decays quickly, releasing those nutrients almost immediately (two to four weeks) for uptake and utilization by the following cash crop.”
I can’t see any reason why this wouldn’t work in the garden and will be trying mooli as a cover crop in future. Not only will it improve the soil, I’ll be able to harvest a small proportion as a winter veg!
A Mooli By Any Other Name Would Taste Just As Good
Called chai tow or chai tau in Singapore, and báiluóbo in Mandarin, mooli goes by so many other names. From Icicle Radish and Winter Radish to Daikon and Oriental Radish the names vary as do the varieties and cultivars. Some or longer, some are fatter, but essentially they are all the same plant and can be used in similar ways. It’s the taste and texture that matters. Below are some recipes.
Recipes Using Daik0n aka Mooli
Jason Atherton also uses mooli in his Miso glazed cod recipe as a pickle.
I’ve a few Persian inspired dishes where Mooli make a great substitute for the radish normally used.
Indian dishes that use mooli include Mooli raita, and Aloo Mooli
In the video below Chef Harpal Singh Sokhi makes his version of Aloo Mooli (NB it’s not in English but has captions where needed and I learnt so much just watching it.).
And for those that love chips with everything, heres a recipe for Mooli chips. To be honest they don’t taste much like chips, but they are mooli chips and don’t really pretend tone anything but that. They are roasted or deep fried to make mooli chips.
Here’s a veggie recipe for mooli fritters that is quick and easy to make.
Mooli can also be used in stews and casseroles. There are no limits really; except your imagination.
So look for Mooli in the supermarkets and Asian stores or grow your own you decide.
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