Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana)
Horseradish is a hardy perennial which is native to Eastern Europe and western Asia and belongs to the same family as mustard, wasabi, broccoli and cabbage. The root is the most common part of horseradish that is consumed however the leaves can also be eaten.
Horseradish roots have a hot, sharp, mustard-like flavour though this dissipates quickly when exposed to the air and more-so during cooking. Crushed leaves also have a sharp flavour, yet are milder than the root.
Uncut horseradish root has little to no aroma. However once cut, it releases a strong, pungent smell can make your eyes water and your nose run.
Horseradish is used in German and Austrian cuisines, normally as a condiment that is mixed with vinegar, mayonnaise, wine or lemon juice. Due to its strong flavour, it pairs well with rich or fatty foods. Horseradish marries with capers, celery, chives, cream, dill, mustard, vinegar and yoghurt. It also works well with apples, avocado, beef, beetroot, fish, ham, potatoes and sausages.
To start growing horseradish, plant root cuttings in sandy soil with good drainage. Horseradish can easily take over, so it’s best to plant it in a pot or large container. It’s best planted in spring and then harvested the following autumn.
It is said that horseradish was one of the bitter herbs eaten by Jews at Passover to remind them of the bitter years of slavery with the Egyptians. During the Middle Ages, the culinary use of horseradish spread from Russia to kitchens throughout wider Europe. By the late 1800’s, horseradish sauce had become one of the first bottled convenience condiments.
Throughout history, horseradish has been used for its antibiotic and germ-killing properties to combat the effects of colds, hay fever and kidney disorders. It also helps purify the bloodstream and to cleanse the body of wastes.
Horseradish is also said to assist with persistent coughs, asthma, intestinal worms, ear infections and fluid retention.
Facts about Horseradish
Despite its name, Horseradish is poisonous for horses. The name originated in England in the 1590’s and combines the word horse (formerly used as an adjective meaning "strong, large, or coarse") and the word radish.
Prior to refrigeration, milkmaids added 1 tablespoon to buckets of fresh milk to stop the milk from going sour.
Can I grow horseradish near other fruit and vegetables?
Although horseradish is prone to take over, its anti-fungal properties can help permeate the soil and prevent diseases in other root crops like potatoes, carrots and sweet potato. Horseradish can be beneficial when planted under apple and mango trees, helping to prevent brown rot, powdery mildew and other fungal diseases.