Vegan Veg: Make room for mooli
By: Lonnie and Richard Morris
Lonnie likes to grow more unusual vegetables including large white radishes that are also ‘idiot proof’ in the kitchen, according to Richard.
I’ve talked about mooli on many occasions in this column but have never said just how easy it is to grow, how useful it is when space is left empty from other crops and how good it is in the kitchen. So, here’s mooli in a bit more detail.
Moolis are long white radishes. You may see them listed as Chinese radishes or daikon, they are more commonly called mooli in this country and across Asia. They are a mild radish suited to many savoury dishes. Some varieties have been known to weigh up to 45kg (100lb) and measure 60cm (2ft), but 20cm (8in) is fine for kitchen use. Sown at the same time as other oriental vegetables such as mizuna, mibuna, pak choi and choy sum, they add a crispy texture to dishes.
Moolis are easy seeds to handle as they are quite large. As such, you can sow them in a drill about 10cm (4in) apart to give them room to develop. I sow them in any gap made after a crop has vacated a space. I don’t really worry about which family bed they should go into as they’re not fussed. Just be careful not to sow them where you have had a crop that has been affected by slugs as, in the early days of growth, slugs can eat into the roots. I have on occasion seen some flea beetle damage but holes in the leaves do not affect the root.
Moolis enjoy a fairly loose soil so they can easily put their root down into the ground. Last year I put them into a gap vacated by potatoes. The soil had been well disturbed giving good conditions for the root. Tight soil will cause them to fork. They prefer a rich, deep soil. If the seeds go in when there is little or no rain, be sure to water them until they establish. Once they’re growing well, it’ll be autumn so you’re less likely to need to provide extra water.
Depending on your conditions, your moolis may be ready for harvest in about five or six weeks. (Don’t expect mammoth roots in this time!) You’ll know when they’re ready as they poke their shoulders up above the soil line by an inch or so. When they are ready, start harvesting them. If they are left in the ground they can become woody and that’s very unpleasant for kitchen use. They need to be harvested before the first hard frost (they tolerate a light frost) otherwise they’ll go to mush in the ground and are unusable. Sown in late August/early September, they’ll be eaten in October and November.
Moolis store for about a week in a cool larder or the fridge but they are crisper cooked shortly after pulling. If you’re new to them, eat them at their best to get the true benefit.
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