Jane's Delicious Garden Blog


Hot Stuff Horseradish

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the June 14th, 2020

For more than three centuries horseradish has been used for everything from relieving back pain to an aphrodisiac. It’s a perennial member of the mustard family and both the roots and leaves are edible.

Planting pointers

Horseradish grows best in moist, well-drained soil, in full sun to dappled shade. It can be invasive if left unharvested. After harvesting, leave a few roots in the ground for next spring. In frosty areas, the leaves will die back during winter but new shoots will come up in spring.

Growing tips

Grow in spring from seedlings or fresh root. Choose a piece of root about 20cm long and about as thick as a pencil. Bury it at an angle with the narrow end 10cm deep and the thicker end 5cm below the surface. Keep it well watered until shoots appear. Leave it for the first season to build up its root system. Once big enough, it will spread its roots underground and new shoots will start sprouting around the base of the plant.

Harvesting and cooking

Harvest the roots in early winter or after the first frosts (as this makes the roots tastier) and process as soon as possible. These roots make a far stronger horseradish sauce than any commercial varieties. Pick young leaves for salads and stir-fries.

Horseradish sauce  

Be warned: fresh horseradish is potent! The first time I made horseradish sauce it felt like I’d been attacked by mustard gas. When you harvest roots they smell earthy but, tucked away in their cell walls are isothiocynates. These form part of the plant’s defence mechanism – as soon as an insect bites into a root, enzymes release this volatile pungent oil. And the same thing happens when we cut or process the roots. The enzymes continue to release hot vapours until vinegar is added, as vinegar stops the enzymes in their tracks.  If you want really hot sauce, leave the processed horse radish for a longer time and if you want milder, add the vinegar earlier  

Method
  1. Scrub roots well and peel thicker ones. Do this under running water to prevent weeping!
  2. Cut into chunks and then blend in a food processor until it reaches the texture you prefer (I like slightly chunky sauce).
  3. For every 3 tablespoons of horseradish add 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon of sugar and a good pinch of salt.
  4. Decent into sterilised bottles, seal and store in the fridge for up to six months.
  5. For a creamier sauce blend three tablespoons chopped fresh horseradish with 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1/4 cup sour cream, 1 tablespoon mayonnaise and 1 tablespoon chopped chives  

Tip

Add slices of horseradish to a bottle of vodka. This preserves it and makes great flavoured vodka – perfect for a Bloody Mary.

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