How to Grow and Cook With Horseradish

Barbara Pleasant shares how to grow and cook with horseradish. The article includes information on how to plant horseradish and the best ways to use horseradish in recipes.

| October/November 2003

Fresh grated horseradish in a recipe.

Fresh grated horseradish is used to add heat to a recipe.

Photo by Barbara Pleasant

The peppery fire of horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) is no slow burn. It'll flash up your nose and curl your tongue into submission in one swift sear. As a condiment for red meat and shellfish, grated horseradish is legendary, but the plant's medicinal and ornamental qualities are noteworthy, too.

Roots are the business end of horseradish plants, traditionally they are grated and served as a fresh relish or added as a seasoning to meat and seafood sauces. Horseradish also enhances the flavors of salads and soups, particularly those that feature seasonal fall vegetables and fruits.

A native of southeastern Europe, horseradish was well known to the Egyptians by 1500 B.C., and has been used to represent bitter herbs on the Seder plate for the Jewish Passover since Biblical times. It was used primarily as a medicine by early Europeans; for centuries, the root was rubbed on sore joints to relieve rheumatism, and pressed upon foreheads to relieve headaches — a practice that actually may have helped alleviate sinus-type pain.

It's a natural decongestant — if you breathe in enough allyl isothiocyanate, a chemical in the root. That quality may account for one of the plant's folk names, "stingnose." If you dare to try this for yourself, hold a spoonful of grated or "prepared" horseradish about 4 inches from your nose, take a deep sniff (be careful!), and then put a small pinch on your tongue. You should be breathing easier within seconds of the sniff.

Scientists also have found that compounds in horseradish root can kill a range of bacteria, which makes it an even more appropriate accompaniment to a roast beef sandwich in this era of increased concerns about food pathogens. Although horseradish's strong taste precludes its use in toothpaste, the volatile oils in the root also have been found to block the growth of the bacteria that cause dental plaque.

Sometime before the Renaissance, the peppery root became popular as a savory meat relish in Germany. Word of its tastiness spread from there into the Scandinavian countries and Britain, where it quickly became the preferred condiment for beef and oysters.

5/3/2007 9:58:19 AM

could you send me a picture of horseraddish because i have a plant but im not sure is that right one thanks

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