Horseradish – Armoracia rusticana – Perennial
Horseradish is a root crop of the crucifer family which has an oil that contains the sulfur compound allyl isothycyanate. This compound imparts the strong pungent odor and hot, biting flavor to the root making Horseradish a condiment capable of clearing sinus cavities and savored in sauces for seafood, pork and beef dishes. Horseradish is a true perennial in the garden
Horseradish is native to southeast Europe, but it is grown all over the world, even in the tropics where it is limited to higher altitudes. It has been used by the Egyptians and Greeks for over 3,500 years and is one of the bitter herbs at Passover.
Roots are carrot-like in shape, usually rough and white to cream colored. The plant may grow to a height of 3 feet. Leaves have no culinary value and contain a slightly poisonous compound.
Maliner Kren is a German variety that has the most vigorous growth and largest roots.
New Bohemian is a variety that may lack the root quality and yield of other varieties, but is resistant to white rust and mosaic.
Variegata is a cultivar that is less invasive, has cream- variegated leaves, and tolerates partial shade. Very few garden centers stock horseradish roots so look for them on the internet or get a root cutting from a gardener or friend who grows the plants.
Horseradish likes full sun, a well-drained but still moist soil, with a medium pH 6.0 to 7.0. Horseradish is propagated by planting pieces of side roots that are taken from he main root following harvest and stored in moist sand in a cool cellar through the winter.
Start by planting horseradish in the fall or very early spring. Use root pieces (sets) that are finger width in diameter and about 12 to 18 inches long. Lay the sets horizontally, with the head (large end) slightly elevated. Cover the sets with six to eight inches of soil, forming a ridge one to two feet wide. One or two plants are usually plenty for the home gardener. After leaves appear, fertilize with compost or 10-10-10.
Horseradish is difficult to eradicate and can become a weed once it is established. New plants regenerate from root bits left in the soil.
Most gardeners grow horseradish as a perennial along one end of the garden and keep it weeded by shallow cultivation or heavy organic mulch.
Care Of Horseradish
Water: Horseradish is quite drought tolerant, but the roots become woody and has a weak flavor if stressed too much. The roots become very soft and have a strong flavor if over-watered. Water horseradish once a week (1-2 inches of water) so it penetrates to a depth of 18-24 inches.
Fertilization: In addition to the fertilizer at planting, apply 1 teaspoon per plant of nitrogen (21-0-0) 4 and 8 weeks after planting. Too much nitrogen will cause excessive top growth and root branching.
Handling: To produce smooth, strong roots, some gardeners dig around the plant after growth starts to remove all additional leaf shoots except the one at the top. After the leaves reach 1 foot in height, they will also dig around the plant to uncover the upper part of the root and carefully remove all of the larger lateral (branch)roots. These procedures help ensure that the main root grows vigorously.
Mulches - Mulching with compost or leaves during the year will help retain moisture and suppress weeds.
Horseradish produces from 3 to 7 pounds per square yard of planted area. One root will make about a half-pint of horseradish sauce.
Dig roots any time from late fall (after a hard frost) until growth starts in the spring. Leave some small, pencil-sized roots for next year’s harvest or plant them in another row. Horseradish roots can be stored for an extended period in refrigeration if placed in plastic bags.
Cooking With Horseradish
Harvest begins after several frosts which helps improve flavor. Dig up the plant, trim off the tops and side roots and scrub root clean. For immediate consumption, grate only as much as you will use in a month and store in the refrigerator. Intact roots will retain their flavor for up to 3 months if stored properly in plastic bags. Horseradish roots can be stored in moist sand or sawdust in a dark root cellar, or they can be put in a plastic bag with moist sand and stored in the refrigerator. Save the side roots for planting the next spring.
Grinding Horseradish - Home gardeners can process horseradish by peeling and dicing the root pieces, and then grinding in a blender. A basic recipe is to fill a blender half full with diced horseradish, add a small amount of water and ice, and grind to desired consistency. To preserve and enhance the flavor, add two or three tablespoons of white vinegar (not cider vinegar) and a half-teaspoon of salt or one tablespoon of sugar. Vinegar stops the heat building enzyme activity caused by crushing. So for a milder sauce, add the vinegar immediately. For a hotter sauce, wait a few minutes after grinding before adding the vinegar. Place in clean jars. Don't fill the jars too full. Cover tightly. Store in the refrigerator or freezer. When you are really cold this winter, heat up your life with horseradish.
The prepared product must be kept in a closed container and refrigerated between servings. Even under these conditions, horseradish turns brown and develops an off-flavor in four to six weeks. For this reason, gardeners like to prepare fresh horseradish to meet their immediate needs.
Outstanding Horseradish Sauce
This sauce is terrific with roast beef or corned beef. The ration is 3 to 3 to 3 of mayonnaise, sour cream, and ground horseradish. Mix well and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. This sauce does not hold over to the next day very well; best made fresh each time.