Horseradish is one of my favorite garden vegetables, which I like for its spicy, nose and sinus-clearing abilities. It’s often used as the “bitter herb” in Passover celebrations.
It also has good immune-booting properties and is in many home remedies for general illnesses and colds and flu.
Its big ribbed 3-4 foot tall leaves have just a hint of spiciness and are good in salads.
Horseradish is also excellent on steak or deviled eggs. Yum!
Ok, now I’m hungry. Who’s with me?
And last, fresh made horseradish is better (and hotter) than that wimpy stuff at the grocery store.
So many good reasons to grow some!
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It’s easy to grow in USDA zones 4 to 7. And once established, they need very little maintenance.
You need well-drained soil with good fertility to prevent root rot and enable good growth.
You can get roots from online nurseries or maybe your local nursery. But it’s best (and cheapest) from a friend or neighbor who just harvested their own.
There’s always roots too small to get processed that are replanted for next year’s harvest. See more about this below.
Whatever your source, horseradish is a perennial, so once planted you will have it for many years.
Because it grows by rhizomes, it will be very hard to remove all the roots. So be sure the site is suitable.
If you change that area to a normal garden bed, you will be fighting horseradish as weeds in your garden beds.
Because of this, you may want to plant it in a container to prevent its spreading.
Prepare the ground/container by digging a hole about 12″ deep and loosening the soil around the hole.
Put the roots in the hole at an angle, about 45 degrees or so, with the smaller end of the root down.
Spacing recommendation is about 18″ between them, but you could go less in a smaller garden.
You can either bury the crown (top) of the root, or leave it just exposed to see how it’s doing.
Make sure to add some compost, worm castings, and Azomite (or other rock dust) well-mixed into the native soil, and mulch after planting.
Horseradish don’t need a ton of water, due to their extensive root system. So be careful about over-watering, which can rot and kill the usually robust plant’s roots.
They also don’t need a ton of nitrogen, but do grow faster from it.
Once a year you can apply a natural fertilizer (good rich compost, composted manure or diluted fish emulsion).
Make sure to keep weeds down by using mulch and pulling them out.
Strange as it seems, you can prune horseradish. If you cut off any more than 3-4 leaves, this helps keep them from spreading too much.
It also prevents them from forming weird crooked roots that are hard to process.
One pearl of traditional wisdom is to harvest horseradish only in months that have “r” in them.
The best time to harvest is in late fall, when the leaves start dying. This is when the beneficial properties of horseradish are at their peak.
Helpfully, this is also the start of cold and flu season. A good hard frost makes the horseradish a bit hotter, so wait at least until then.
First, loosen the soil around the horseradish with garden fork or pitchfork. Be careful, because the roots will break somewhat easily.
This isn’t the end of the world, but it does make processing more difficult.
Lift out the roots and shake off the excess dirt. Cut off the leaves, and either compost them or use in a mixed salad.
Next, wash and dry the roots. This just makes it easier and cleaner to process.
Smaller roots that are about pencil-sized and 10 inches long can be replanted for next year’s crop.
Cut off root top (crown) square, and root bottom at an angle so you can replant it correctly. See the planting tips above.
After washing, peel the roots and cut out bad parts. Make sure to remove any old woody parts of the root. Usually this is from roots that are multiple years old.
Now you need to grind up the roots as fine as possible. Most people use a food processor, but you can also use a meat grinder.
Note that cutting or grinding horseradish root releases the mustard oil (horseradish is a brassica like mustard) that gives horseradish its potency. So it’s important to grind outside (run extension cord to food processor) or have lots of good ventilation.
IMPORTANT: Grinding horseradish is WAY worse than cutting onions. If you have a cold, processing it is just what the doctor ordered!
Do not lean over the bowl and try to sniff it to see how it’s going. You will regret it. Keep the stuff at arm’s length.
Some people suggest wearing goggles or a scuba mask to protect eyes and nose from the volatile compounds.
Ask me how I know…
As far as the particulars of what to put in it, here’s a recipe.
- 8-10″ horseradish root
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp vinegar (white or apple cider)
- A pinch salt
Though honestly, I don’t really use exact measurements when making my horseradish.
Grind up the root, with a little water, until it’s really fine. If the mix is too watery, strain off the excess liquid.
Now, here’s where you can to make some choices. The vinegar stabilizes the hotness and preserves the flavor.
The time delay before adding the vinegar determines potency (longer delay means hotter). If you put in the vinegar at 1 minute after grinding, it won’t be as hot.
If you wait 5 minutes or more to add the vinegar, it will be hotter.
Note: I made some mild and some hot, by waiting 1 minute and 5 minutes respectively. There is a difference in pungency between the two, though not as big as I expected. I think I will try waiting 8 minutes next time.
Mix well after adding the vinegar, to preserve the pungency and flavor.
Transfer the mixture to clean jars and seal. It should keep for about a month in the fridge, or a lot longer in the freezer.
Note: You could either prepare it as needed, or process the roots and freeze it in jars.
For unprocessed roots, don’t let them dry out. Keep it in a loosely closed plastic bag in the fridge. The whole root should last a year in the fridge, or years in the freezer.
After processing, replant the roots for next year. These are the ones you marked by cutting the top square and bottom at an angle.
You may can/jar it (pressure or water bath), just realize that heat makes it lose the potency but not the flavor.
To prevent browning, after opening the jar, close lid and turn upside down in fridge.
You can also grind and freeze in icecube trays, which works well for taking out small portions.
To make horseradish sauce, mix with mayo or sour cream.
Some people like to fresh grate it on salad, though I’ve never tried it.
Another favorite home remedy for healing is fire cider. It’s very simple, just one more ingredient than horseradish:
- Horseradish, cubed
- Onions, sliced
- Garlic, peeled and crushed
- Apple cider vinegar to cover
Combine all ingredients in a jar and set aside for a month.
Strain the liquid and retain: this is the fire cider. Use the ingredients in soups or stews.
To use the fire cider when ill, drink about 1/2 to 1 ounce with lots of water.
Don’t try it straight, as it may make you nauseated.
Another way to preserve horseradish is to ferment it. Try this recipe:
- 8 oz. horseradish
- 4 oz. parsnip
- 1/4 oz. sea salt or Kosher salt (only salt, no preservatives, no table salt)
- 2 cups water (for brine)
- Another 1/4 oz. sea salt or Kosher salt (for brine)
- (optional but recommended) 1/8 to 1/4 cup of whey from straining yogurt or cheese-making
- Peel and grate the horseradish. Again, use a food processor outdoors to make it easier.
- Then peel and grate the parsnips.
- Toss the grated horseradish and parsnips together with salt until thoroughly mixed.
- Put the mixture into your jars/fermenting crock, cover with the brine, and attach an airlock. I prefer an airlock, though a loose lid or cloth can work. This is also the time to add the whey. It helps kick-start the fermentation process and is more likely to result in a good end product. If you don’t add whey, increase the salt a little bit.
- Let it ferment out of the sun for at least a few days to a few weeks. Longer fermentation will result in less heat from the horseradish and more tartness.
- Refrigerate after fermentation. It should keep for several months.
If it gets smelly, slimy or moldy, compost it or toss it in the trash and try again.
Horseradish is great as a condiment, and for supporting health. It’s easy to grow, harvest and process.
Why not get some today?
For more info about processing see http://www.preservingyourharvest.com/Horseradish.html
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OK, that’s all folks! Do you have any questions or comments about horseradish, sustainable homesteading, permaculture design or anything else? Ask your question down below and let’s talk! You can also use the contact form, or email me at info at thepermaculture dot life.
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