The Brassicaceae family (mustard family) has so many amazing vegetables in it that grow splendidly in our gardens. Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana, syn. Cochlearia Armoracia) is no exception. This rugged member of the family, like its relatives arugula, wasabi, and radishes, has a definite bite to its flavor. In fact, horseradish can be downright hot and gets hotter after you grate it and let it sit. Placing it in white wine or rice vinegar (not apple cider vinegar as this causes discoloration) can keep the horseradish’s heat from developing beyond your comfort level.
Healthy Horseradish Highlights
Over the top hot, or mild and meek, horseradish has plenty of nutrition to offer. In one tablespoon (15 grams) of this delicious stuff, you get 7 calories, 0 grams of fat and protein, and 2 grams of carbohydrates. Horseradish also offers Vitamins C, B-6, B-9 (folate) and the minerals calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, selenium, and zinc. However, the greatest nutritional punch this powerful plant offers are the isothiocyanates, and their naturally occurring glucosinolate precursors. Whether from chopping, chewing, or light cooking, when the plant cells are damaged, glucosinolates are released and converted to isothiocyanates by an enzyme called myrosinase. These isothiocyanates are significant because they inhibit tumor growth and reduce the effects of carcinogens, hence acting as a potential chemoprotector against certain types of cancer.
Horseradish is a large leaved perennial plant that has been used by the Egyptians since 1500 BCE, and by the ancient Greeks as well. These societies and others used, and some still do use, horseradish for medicinal purposes to treat problems such digestive issues, rheumatism, and tuberculosis. Horseradish was even thought to be an aphrodisiac due to its heat component. As the Renaissance era swept through Europe, awareness, and use of horseradish grew. The name horseradish is thought to have come about from the British pronunciation of “meerrettich”, the German name for this plant. The pronunciation sounded much like “mare-radish”, lending itself to the name horseradish. Horseradish eventually spread to North America in the late 1700’s and was commercially grown by the mid-nineteenth century.
While you may not want to grow horseradish on a commercial level, it is something you can grow right in your very own garden. Just know, it is a perennial and will come back each year and has a tendency to spread. So dedicate a space that can be all its own and it will work famously within your garden.
As you go to grow the feisty plant, find a spot with deep, rich, loamy soil that allows for full sun (although partial shade is tolerated). Till up your soil about 1’ deep, incorporating compost as you go. It’s best to plant root cuttings (sets) in early spring when the weather is between 45°-70°F, ~1 month prior to the average last frost date in your area. This cold hardy plant should be planted 1’ apart and placed in the ground at a 45° angle, with tops pointing along the rows in the same direction and covered with 2-3” of soil.
As your horseradish grows, keeping weeds at bay is essential, as is keeping the soil moist with consistent watering. No additional care is warranted, nor should you worry about pests or diseases being problematic for this pungent perennial. The one thing you can do, if you are so inclined, is to remove the leaf-bearing sprouts (suckers) that form above ground. Once your plant reaches ~8”, use a sharp knife to cut away the sprouts, leaving only 4-5 at the center of the crown. Doing this will result in roots that are smoother, straighter, and larger.
You may notice white flowers growing from your horseradish after your plant has had a chance to overwinter. Trim these off to keep your horseradish from becoming weedy. However, long before spring, will come your fall harvest. Once your plant has gone through a few frosts, and leaves appear damaged, begin harvesting your horseradish. Best results come from using a digging fork to loosen the soil around the plant. If you find you have broken pieces of root, just pick them up and harvest them too. Once the soil is loosened all around the root, pull your root out. One really great thing about harvesting horseradish is that you can continue to do this well into the winter as long as the ground is not frozen. If you don’t get a chance to harvest all your horseradish before the ground does freeze, no worries, you can excavate those roots first thing the following spring.
Once you have your horseradish harvested, whether in fall or spring, this is the time to enjoy it. Unlike other roots, such as carrot, this isn’t something you just want to eat straight away. You will need to either grate it as mentioned before, or food processor it after chopping it into chunks, always placing it in vinegar to control the heat accumulation. A rule of thumb to make your horseradish as hot or not as you want it is to add 3 tablespoons of vinegar for each cup of horseradish you have. The milder you want the horseradish the quicker you add the vinegar. For very mild add it immediately, for a hotter and stronger flavor wait about 3 minutes. Note that while you are preparing the horseradish the fumes will irritate your eyes and nose. Make sure you work with your horseradish in a well-ventilated area. I have even used goggles before when preparing my horseradish. Fresh horseradish can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks.
So, what to do with your horseradish once it is prepared? Well, if you’re me, you add to any and everything you can, including mashed potatoes (sweet or regular), fish dishes, steak sauces, and salad dressings. If you are my kids, you add it sparingly to a few select meat dishes. One thing I really enjoy making with my horseradish is spiced whipped cream. This stuff goes great on any vegetable, meat, or eaten straight out of the bowl…yes, I really do love me some horseradish!
Spiced Whipped Cream
1-2 cups of heavy whipping cream
All the horseradish you can handle (but maybe start with 1 tablespoon and see how it goes)
Chill a metal or glass bowl and mixing beaters in the freezer for 10 minutes
Remove from freezer
Place whipping cream in chilled bowl
Beat for 2-3 minutes until whipped cream is formed
Add in horseradish
Beat until combined
Voila, you’re finished!
If using this for a fish recipe or Tangier vegetables, feel free to add a teaspoon or two of lemon juice. If you don’t have cream, no worries, just use butter. Whip softened butter for a minute or two and then blend in the horseradish. Goes great on meats and veggies!
Healthy Horseradish for Spirited Simplicity
Zesty, fiery, easy to grow, and easy to use! Who wouldn’t want a vegetable like this around? Plant some horseradish and keep your garden and kitchen hot and spicy. Enjoy your horseradish and look forward to each spring as this pungent perennial keeps coming back.
Choose My Plate.gov. US Department of Agriculture. SuperTracker. https://www.choosemyplate.gov/tools-supertracker
University of Minnesota Extension. 1999. University of Minnesota. Horseradish. https://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/yard-garden/vegetables/horseradish/