Sunday, October 4, 2015

Harvesting & Growing Horseradish

It's that time of year that I harvest some of my Horseradish to make both culinary and medicinal delights for the winter months.  We have transplanted our plant stock that I have been growing for over 25 years to our new homestead this last week. I thought now would be a great time to write a little about this wonderful, diverse and highly underrated perennial.  

Here is a little background information on growing and using Horseradish I thought may be of interest to you.  

In Spring, the tender, edible leaves emerge from their Winter resting period.

Growing Horseradish:

Horseradish is a perennial that is best propagated by root cuttings. Horseradish is hardy to zone 5 and in other areas, it may be grown as an annual.  Horseradish root stock must be planted in amended soil with compost.  Horseradish prefers afternoon sunshine with a little shade. Horseradish also benefits from frequent watering - the plant prefers a moist soil but not wet or soggy soils. Horseradish can be planted in full sun which helps horseradish to survive but horseradish will do well with afternoon shade especially in areas that are hot, and or dry.  Once you get Horseradish established, it is pretty much one of those plants that you don't need to fuss over.  They are quite hardy I have found.

One of my Horseradish Plants Just Before Harvesting
Harvesting Horseradish:

The best time to harvest Horseradish is after the first hard frost and the leaves are dying back.  If the ground has frozen, you can overwinter horseradish.  In the spring before the plant begins to actively grow, you can harvest it at that time too if you wish.

Storing Horseradish:

Horseradish roots should be stored in a cool, dark location so the root does not spoil.  Whole root stock may be stored up to 3 months if kept in a ventilated plastic bag inside of a refrigerator.  They can be stored in a root cellar or buried in moist sand.  Horseradish may be frozen and used for culinary purposes later.  

Culinary Uses:  

This Root I harvested in early Spring 2015.

Horseradish Root is used to make condiments, as a spice and for seasoning.  Horseradish contains potassium, phosphorus, calcium and magnesium, are fat-free and rich in vitamins A & C. Horseradish loses nutritional value when cooked so it is best used raw. The most common uses for raw Horseradish are for cocktail sauces, dips, dressings, numerous condiments like horseradish mustard, horseradish mayonnaise, or added into cheese spreads.  

Horseradish loses its pungent punch when heated.  Using fresh is always preferred but prepared, store bought is at times necessary and acceptable to use in many recipes.  The ratio of prepared, store bought Horseradish to using fresh grated Horseradish is 4 prepared to 1 fresh.  

Other herbs that pair beautifully with Horseradish are bay, chives, garlic and mint.  

In the book, Uncommon Fruits and Vegetables, a Common Sense Guide by E. Schreiber, suggests to "throw out the rules and add a little horseradish to everything!" 

When I add Horseradish, I make the addition to "taste" and not so much by measurement.  I truly enjoy the addition of Horseradish Cream to liven up a sandwich - it adds punch to an otherwise dull roast beef  or grilled cheese sandwich.  Here's the recipe:

Horseradish Cream
1/4 cup creme fraiche or sour cream       
1/4 cup plain yogurt or mayonnaise                                                        
1/2 TBSP Horseradish  (to taste)
1/2 TBSP Fresh Chopped Dill      
Salt and Pepper to Taste        
1/2 Tsp Lemon Juice (optional)

Measure and mix all ingredients in bowl.  Store covered in refrigerator for up to 3 days.  Can be used as a dip for veggies and/or chips.

Medicinal Uses:

Long before Horseradish became popular as a ingredient in the kitchen, it was used for medicinal purposes from sore throats to digestive tract issues, for the treatment of asthma, arthritis, toothaches and cancer.  Horseradish is known for its diuretic and circulatory properties.  

Native American Indians used Horseradish for toothaches and menstrual cramps.  The ground root was applied to the skin and applied to the skin for circulation.  Tonics were made to treat congestion, sore throats, hoarseness and as an expectorant for colds. 

Today the medical field utilizes an enzyme present in Horseradish, referred to as HRP, as a tool for detecting antibodies.  Research is being conducted to explore possibilities that compounds found in Horseradish can be used for the prevention of cancer.   

One must be cautioned that large doses of Horseradish can cause irritation to the stomach lining and may cause vomiting if you over do it.

Wasabi, which is sometimes called Japanese Horseradish, is another cultivated plant that enjoys the culinary addition of "heat" though many argue Wasabi has a more pungent hot flavor, others folks argue that Horseradish provides more heat.  What many don't know is that Horseradish is often dyed green and used as a substitute for Wasabi!  

The Horseradish Plant not only provides beautiful foliage to a landscape, it provides a wonderful medicinal food source for folks to enjoy. 

Fall is the best time to plant Horseradish plants.  Look for a root in the organic section of your local grocer or at the farmers market that has a bit of green on the crown.  Plant the root with the crown up it in a moist but not wet area and wait till next fall to harvest some of this wonderful plant.

(You guessed it, I am getting ready to make some things with Horseradish!)

DISCLAIMER:  Please note that I am not a doctor nor am I recommending any herbs or plants for medical or health purposes.  The information contained herein is given as educational purposes only and should not be considered as or a recommendation of any particular medical or health treatment.  Always check with your health professional before using any herb or plant as a treatment or health treatment.

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