How to Grow and Prepare Horseradish

Horseradish is a hardy perennial known for its pungent root, which has endless culinary possibilities. Learn how grow, harvest, and prepare horseradish, plus get ideas for different ways to put your homegrown horseradish to use in the kitchen.


| July/August 2018


I should have known something was a bit fishy. "Come on in! Have a taste." My father and his friend Bud were laughing as they invited me into the barn where they were making a fresh batch of horseradish. Little did I know that by entering the barn and partaking in this generations-old family ritual, I was also crossing the threshold into manhood. Both of them were giggling like schoolgirls, with eye- and nose-sealing safety glasses attached to their faces, as Bud handed me a spoon and a jar of fresh horseradish. "Here, have a spoonful. Let's see what you think." So I did. I swallowed the entire spoonful in one gulp. As I was struggling to stay on my feet, eyes watering and head spinning, my dad and Bud were hysterical. I'll never forget the sweet, intoxicating taste followed by the immediate nose-clearing, burning sensation, wrapped all together in an incredible endorphin rush. From that moment forward, I've been hooked on horseradish.

Bud is no longer with us, but this time-honored family tradition continues. Not only is making fresh horseradish a fun way to spend an afternoon, there are a great number of uses for it as well.

Growing

Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) is easy to grow. To be quite honest, it's considered invasive by some. Classified as a brassica, horseradish does well in colder climates that get a solid freeze each winter. I recommend a well-drained, full-sun location away from anything else you're trying to grow in a garden. Horseradish spreads aggressively; sometimes when we clean horseradish and throw the tops and leaves in a compost pile or on the ground, we'll have more horseradish growing there the next year.

Because you won't find horseradish seeds for sale anywhere, you just need to go to a local supermarket or farmers market and buy a root or two to get started. You can also purchase roots or crowns online from many seed companies. Use what you need, and save the crown or even a few chunks of the root ends. Discard the leaves, and plant what you have left a few inches under the soil.



I can't stress enough how easy this is to grow; just find a type that you like, throw pieces of it in the ground, and you'll have horseradish for years to come. I do have to issue a warning: Don't rototill a patch of horseradish unless you really want to encourage it to grow more. Rototilling won't kill it at all; you'll just create a lot of new plants.

Processing

One of my favorite things about horseradish is that anytime you can get at the root, you can use it. We dig it in spring, summer, fall, and even winter, if the ground is thawed. Just dig up as many roots as you think you'll need, discard the leaves, and get to work.







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