Horseradish is a root vegetable that earned its name to set it apart from the ordinary garden radish used in salads and slaws. History also reports that horses are fond of the pungent greenery. In ancient Greece, the root was known as “wild radish” with the leaves and root prized as an antiseptic, diuretic and stimulant. Because of its exceptionally high vitamin C content, horseradish is a centuries-old cure for scurvy.
Most folks think of horseradish as a spicy condiment, often served with beef, especially prime rib or as a compliment to seafood. The root of the horseradish, thinly sliced and pickled with herbs in vinegar, is a famous meat sauce in cultures around the world.
Native to Europe, horseradish is a perennial herb, with huge, deep green to yellow-gold elongated leaves. The plant reaches a height of from two to four feet at maturity and does well in a sunny spot along a fence line. Horseradish is best planted in a corner in well-composted clay soil where it will receive lots of moisture. Horseradish needs one to two inches of water a week, so remember to water liberally during periods of drought. Horseradish grows well in United States Plant Hardiness Zones 3 through 7.
Reserve this spot in the garden for horseradish only, as even the tiniest root left at harvest time will develop into a plant. Once planted, you will have an endless supply of horseradish both for personal use and to share with friends and family.
Horseradish plants can be started from seeds, but the easiest way to establish horseradish in the garden is to purchase a couple of established plants online or from a local home and garden supply store. In early spring, turn the soil, breaking up all clumps. Add garden compost and aged herbivore manure (cow, horse, pig, sheep, chicken, or goat) and work well into the soil. Water well to saturate the soil.
Plant horseradish after all danger of frost is past. Plant twelve to eighteen inches deep. Space plants one to two feet apart. In the spring, the delicate new leaves are a tasty addition to a salad or slaw or use a few springs of fresh leaf to flavor to a soup or stew.
Plan to harvest your horseradish in the fall, before the first frost. Dig the roots and remove excess soil. Store in a root cellar in damp sand or a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator. Grate as needed. If you have an abundance of horseradish root, grind and pickle with apple cider vinegar, a sprig of fresh rosemary and a sprig of fresh thyme. Add honey or raw sugar to taste. Bring mixture to a mild boil and simmer until thicken and translucent. Pack in sterile hot glass jars and seal. Water bath for 15-minutes. Store for enjoyment during the winter. Homemade horseradish sauce is a worthy condiment to serve with a country ham.