A hot, spicy, peppery KICK..
Let’s talk about growing and using Horseradish. To start with it is referred to as a herb by some and as a vegetable by others. Either way, it’s easy to grow and has a lot of yummy uses. People have been grinding the roots of horseradish for more than 3,000 years.
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What’s it used for?
Most commonly used to season various meats, fish, salads and sauces. It will give anything a hot, spicy, zesty kick. I read it’s also used in some soups but that sounds just terrible.
When we moved here seven years ago there was one already growing. We have dug it up three times over the years, always leaving some in the ground to continue growing. Needless to say – it is quite mature.
It’s a perennial and does well in cold climates. Said to be hardy to zone 3. It prefers full sun to some shade. It is resistant to most diseases and adaptable to many soil types which makes it pretty easy to grow. I have read that it’s invasive and spreads all over. I have found this to be false with the plant we have. It really has not spread more than a few inches in the seven years we have been here.
Older strains of common horseradish have very large leaves. They can span 10 inches across. The Bohemian strain have narrower leaves and are generally what is grown commercially. Following is a leaf from our plant with my husbands hand to give you an idea of size.
Where can we get it?
You might be able to purchase roots from a greenhouse or grocery store. Or, if your lucky you might have a friend who has some growing in their garden and willing to share. Roots are ready to plant. Or, you can start from seed, but they take a long time and are not as reliable as using a root or crown.
Root cuttings are generally planted in early spring. For a comparison .. plant them around the same time you plant potatoes, carrots, or any root vegetable. You can also plant horseradish in the fall.
If you bought pre cut root cuttings they might be a little dehydrated. Before you plant them you may want to soak them in a bowl of water for a few hours first.
Once you decide on the sunny or partial shade location in your garden that you want to put your horseradish you will want to prepare the area. You will want to prepare the soil as you would for any of your garden veggies. You do not want it compacted. You want good soil texture and drainage. But you don’t have to get to carried away because horseradish is not very picky about soil types.
It can grow in almost all soil types as long as they are not water-logged. Once established it can even tolerate drought. I don’t think we water ours much at all. We kind of forget about it sitting over there by itself. Later in the summer when it gets hot and dry we might remember to give a drink now and then. However, it is suggested to water it once or twice a week but don’t over water horseradish, as this is one of the few conditions that can be harmful to its survival.
Lay your root cuttings across the soil at about 2 or 3 inches deep. Leaves will show up at the head of the cutting. If you plan to put in more than one root cutting you may want to lay them in the same direction and space them about three feet apart. OR plant with the narrow end down and fill the trench until the wide end of the root is just covered. Either way should work just fine.
Some people like to start or grow it in a container. Just an FYI .. the roots commonly grow from 18 to 24 inches. That is two feet so if you decide to use a pot, choose one with enough depth.
You don’t need to worry much about fertilizing. You can if you want but it’s suggested that just once in the spring is enough. Or, fertilize the horseradish bed several months before planting and leave it at that. We have never fertilized ours.
It usually takes around one year for a horseradish plant to reach maturity after its initial planting. If you planted in the spring then it would be best to wait until the next years fall. If you planted in the fall then the next fall is the best time to harvest. It is said that horseradish reaches its peak in size and flavor after it has been through a frost so fall might be best. However, don’t wait to long or it could be hard digging if you live up north.
Digging up can be some work. We need to loosen the soil around the plant with a fork or shovel. Much like potatoes we can grab the top of the plant and pull it up out of the dirt if we have loosened it up enough. We need to remember to go pretty deep when loosening the soil — as we now know, they can be up to 2 feet deep.
Now we need to trim it up. First trim off the sides and bottom where all the little roots are. Take a couple of the larger pieces ( about 8″,) and replant. You can save them for a later planting if you want to but it’s much easier to just stick them back in the ground.
The roots you plan to use need to be washed and dried. You can then use it right away or store it. If your going to store it for awhile, just toss it in the veggie crisper in the fridge or in a baggie that lets air in. It should keep fine for a month or more.
To get it ready for use, peel it and grate it. A note here: You may want to do it outside as it will out do any onion you have ever peeled and chopped.
Some suggest using a food processor or high speed blender but you don’t always get the desired texture. I guess it depends on what you plan to use it for. I have personally found that grating it works best for horseradish sauce. If you want to use a blender be sure to add some cold water and/or crushed ice.
Once it’s grated you can keep it in a glass jar in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. You can even freeze it by mixing a little water and vinegar with it.
There are a lot of ways to use horseradish and before one does they usually “prepare” it. Meaning mixing into a sort of brine with some salt, vinegar and sugar. A general recipe is about 4 ounces of horseradish, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1/2 tablespoon of vinegar. Now it’s called “prepared horseradish.”
Personally I don’t use sugar for my prepared horseradish. I use a tablespoon of water, tablespoon of vinegar and a pinch of salt.
Now what do we do with it?
Well, there are many ways to use it. Add some of the prepared horseradish with some ketchup and tada.. shrimp cocktail. Mix some with a sweet mayo and you have some akin to Arby’s Horsey sauce. Mix it with some sour cream for a quick sauce for meat or roasted veggies. Mix some with mustard for a kick.
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Article by Linda Carlson
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