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Growing and Using Horseradish

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Horseradish

Horseradish

© Flickr user SummerTomato

Latin Name:

Armoracia rusticana

Common Name:

Horseradish

Growing:

Zone 4-9

Horseradish is a robust plant, with a pungent scent and flavor. It is so easy to grow, it can become a nuisance if not cared for properly.

Grow in Full sun preferably, but horseradish will tolerate light shade with ease. If planted straight in the ground, find an out of the way place, where you are certain to never need to remove it. Any part of a root left in the ground, will regrow. In both sun and shade, horseradish prefers to be evenly watered. Do not let it dry out, or the leaves will die and then the plant wastes energy regrowing them, instead of keeping that energy in the roots.

Horseradish in Containers

Grown in a container, horseradish does very well. The container should be deep enough to accommodate the long taproot, but this should not dissuade you from attempting to grow in a less than optimal pot. A little root goes a long way, and if you only get a few inches of spicy horseradish, it may be enough.

Horseradish is commonly grown in a pot that has been sunk into the ground. This allows it to be placed in a specific location that may not be permanent.

Often, you can find horseradish next to abandoned farmsteads. It is simple to harvest what you need, and transplant a few pieces into your own garden.

Harvest:

To harvest horseradish, the long (sometimes shockingly long) taproots must be dug with a garden space. This is best done after a light rain, to ease the removal, in dry years.

The roots need to be scrubbed vigorously with a vegetable brush. Then the root is peeled and ground or sliced for use. The Farmers Almanac has always recommended harvesting horseradish in months that contain the letter R, but an easy way to remember to harvest in a timely manner, is that as a root, the coolness of fall should signal the horseradish is ready.

If buying horseradish root from a farmers market, be sure you can smell the pungent aroma. It is quite possible to buy a large root and have it be as mild as a turnip.

Uses:

Horseradish root has long been heralded as a delicious accompaniment to rich meats. If you are serving a heavy, winter meal of steak or roast, with gravy and all the trimmings, some horseradish sauce is sure to fit right in.

Don't ignore the leaves of the horseradish plant! In early spring, I like to harvest the small, bright green leaves, and use them in my salads. The well recognized flavor is present, even at this stage. Try chopping a few leaves, and sprinkling them like chives, onto baked potato or mixed in the sour cream for just about anything.

Sadly, cooking horseradish will remove the pungency, and it becomes more like a turnip. This is fine if you had a large harvest and just wanted a new way to enjoy your bounty, but for those of us who love that bite, it has to be preserved another way. Grinding the peeled root, with a little vinegar and salt, will turn all the roots you have into the classic horseradish that you buy in a store. It keeps very well in the refrigerator. so make it with no worries.

Medicinal Uses For Horseradish

As a medicinal herb, the very thing that makes it unique, also give it the medicinal quality. The root of horseradish is used to treat winter sickness-especially that which involves the upper respiratory system. Do note, that although horseradish is a common food, it is a powerful one. If applied straight to the skin, it can cause redness and even blistering. It contains the same oils as mustard and should be used with caution directly on the skin.

Horseradish is used as a poultice by an experienced herbalist, and has been found quite effective. Like a mustard plaster, it should not be used by someone who is unsure and never on a small child or a person unable to speak for themselves.

For the family herbalist, horseradish is a wonderful herb in the medicine chest. Make a simple flu tonic, and administer to family when they feel a flu or cold coming on, but again, use good judgement and do not give it to any unsuspecting person-young or old.

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