July is National Horseradish Month. If you think of horseradish as a condiment that comes in a jar, think again. Horseradish also is a beautiful, easy-to-grow perennial herb. Horseradish plants feature dramatic foliage and delicate, creamy flowers—some of the first blooms of the spring.
How to grow horseradish
Horseradish, once rooted, can take over a garden, according to Laurie Jekel, owner of The Last Detail, a landscape design firm based in Denver. "Horseradish is very invasive and easy to grow, but you might want to put it in a bucket with drainage [and then plant the bucket] so it doesn't spread too much in your garden. It's kind of like mint," Jekel said. To learn more about growing horseradish, check this link to Mother Earth News "All About Growing Horseradish."
The history of horseradish
According to the Horseradish Council, horseradish has a long history, dating back about 3,000 years. Horseradish has been prized for both medicinal and culinary properties. In addition to serving as a condiment for roast beef or mixed with ketchup as a cocktail sauce for seafood, horseradish gets stirred into many a Bloody Mary. Horseradish has a place of honor an any Passover seder plate. And the roots adds lots of zip without adding lots of calories: Horseradish contains only two calories per teaspoon. Horseradish, a member of the mustard family, also is related to other radishes, as well as kale, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts.
Harvesting and storing horseradish
"Horseradish is best to harvest after the first frost in late fall or early winter and also in early spring," Jekel said. The long, large leaves and small flowers also can make an interesting floral arrangement.
Prepared horseradish root most often is sold grated and mixed with vinegar, but also beets, cream and other ingredients. In the United States, the majority of horseradish is grown in Illinois. The International Horseradish Festival is celebrated each May in Collinsville, Illinois.
"People often think that you have to blend it [with vinegar] to make horseradish, but you can also grate it. on top of food or grated in a Bloody Mary," Jekel said. She added a warning not to eat horseradish greens: "They're very bad for people and animals," said Jekel. "Animals know that because I've never seen a rabbit eat the leaves. But the leaves make great compost."
Horseradish is a popular condiment in German food. Jekel said that her German grandmother was fond of horseradish, which she grew and harvested. "Horseradish is a great root because you can dig it put it in a plastic bag. It last last months in your refrigerator or cellar," Jekel said. "I wish people still had a cellar like my grandma. She would dig horseradish and just set it on the shelves in the cellar."
The culinary heat contained in horseradish stems from isothiocyanate, a volatile compound released when roots are grated or ground. Eating or even smelling strong horseradish will almost certainly clear out congested sinus cavities. In fact, horseradish was known as “stingnose” in some parts of the U.S. Horseradish has been used as an aphrodisiac, a treatment for rheumatism, and the herb just might prevent food-borne illness. In the South, horseradish was used to easy headaches with the herb rubbed on the forehead.
Horseradish recipe brochure and video
Horseradish might not cure your headache or your rheumatism, it might not make you amorous, but horseradish will improve your sandwich, your potato salad or your scrambled eggs. For horseradish recipes, click on this link. You can even download a horseradish recipe brochure or watch a horseradish recipe video.