I’m a big fan of horseradish, particularly with red meat. Nothing makes a steak taste better, in my opinion. So I thought I would grow some horseradish in the garden this year. I did, and harvested it this past weekend (they say it tastes better after the first frost). The recipes you find out on the web are mostly pretty similar. Vinegar, a pinch of salt, and grated horseradish root. Just peel the root, grate it finely directly into vinegar (the vinegar is vital – it preserves the flavor). That’s all there is to it.
So, my father-in-law (also a horseradish aficionado) and I dug, washed, peeled, grated and mixed. And the result was better than I anticipated. The flavor was so good it was startling. As was the heat. Horseradish is strange that way. Chiles get you in the tastebuds (and gut and anywhere else the peppers come in contact). Horseradish is not hot in your mouth. It’s hot when you exhale. It’s like someone running a blowtorch up your nose. Really. But you learn to breathe with a certain discipline, and then—back to the flavor. Mmmmm!
Creamy horseradish sauce is very popular. Probably because it’s not as hot. It’s not hard to make—mainly, it involves adding sour or heavy cream (and various other things, depending on the recipe) in addition to vinegar. Just for fun, my father-in-law read off the ingredients listed on a jar of the store-bought sauce stuff. Horseradish was only the eighth ingredient on the list! No wonder the fresh, unadulterated stuff is so much better.
Horseradish plants are attractive. They have really large leaves that tend to flop a bit (my biggest complaint about them) but they’re nice-looking nonetheless. So I placed a few in my flowerbeds, and they blended in well. Digging them up is kind of a chore, though, and pretty disruptive in an established bed. For that reason alone, I’d suggest keeping them in a veggie garden. Or any patch of ground where digging a large hole won’t cause problems.
Horseradish plants are perennial, hardy to Zone 2, and you harvest roots in fall (or spring, if you like). It’s easiest to replant a small root immediately, so there’s a new one start next spring. Loose, deep soil helps — these things grow half way to China, and getting them out without breaking the roots isn’t easy. But it’s worth it.