Akka Daikon

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Akka Daikon

Akkajidaikon

Akkajidaikon is a regional variety of radish belonging to the Daikon species, Raphanus sativus, native to the Akka area in the city of Iwaizumi, in the Iwate prefecture. The Daikon radish belongs to the Brassicaceae family and originates from the area between central Asia and the Mediterranean sea. It was brought to Japan a few hundred years ago via China, and since then many regional varieties and local ecotypes have developed and spread throughout Japan. This Daikon variety has a very piquant flavour and can easily be influenced by factors like environmental conditions, cultivation methods, and different types of soil. The standard colour of Akkajidaikon is reddish-purple on the outside with white flesh inside (although it can be white, pink, purple or reddish-white). The variations in the colour are due to the fact that each producer has handed down seeds through the generations making an autoselection. The radish is slightly smaller than modern Daikon varieties (600g and 20-25cm long). The radish has been grown (strictly by hand) in this area since the Edo period (1600-1868) but underwent a decline in the Sixties and Seventies when the area was industrialized. Before the Second World War almost all farmers in the Akka area grew Akkajidaikon but after the War seeds began to be sold by specialised companies and the F1 hybrid Aokubi (green neck) type of radish became widespread, causing Akkajidaikon production to decline. The seeds have to be gathered every year and cultivation is much more time-consuming than for other modern varieties. The seeds are sown between mid-July and mid-August and the harvest takes place from late September until mid-November. Some of the radishes picked are preserved in special holes dug into the earth and in April of the next year they will be removed to be replanted in the fields in time for flowering in June in order to obtain the seeds and use them for the next harvest. Between June and July the seeds are dried and extracted from the reproductive plants ready for the next sowing in mid-July. The flesh of the radish is firm and rich in fibre and it therefore keeps well. It is usually dried in the cold winter wind. According to the traditional recipe it is then boiled and soaked in the river. At this point it can be used as an ingredient for Nimono (mixed vegetables cooked in broth) and Sirumono (vegetable soup).This type of radish is also used as a dressing for Tofu-Dengaku (hard tofu roasted on coal) or Soba (buckwheat pasta). The leaves dried in the winter wind are chopped and shaped into little balls which are again exposed to the winter wind and thus frozen and preserved. These leaves, dried and frozen, are an indispensable ingredient for a rich traditional winter dish: Hoshibajiru (Hoshiba soup). Today there is less need to preserve foods and consequently demand for this particular vegetable is falling. In 1985 a farming research group in the Miyako area began mapping out where Akkajidaikon was cultivated and worked on the selection of seeds and research into transformation, but with scanty results. The Iwaizumi Industrial Promotion Body has guaranteed purchase of the product which means cultivation can continue – it would otherwise have been abandoned since the profits are too low. However in an area like this, which is typified by both depopulation and ageing of the population, people still feel a strong connection to this special product and would like to protect it. Akkajidaikon is now produced in Kogawa and Akka areas of the city of Iwaizumi.

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Territory

StateJapan
Region

Tohoku