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Horseradish is a familiar sight for many, often found preserved in jars at your nearby grocery store or served as a side dish with Sunday brunch cocktails. However, its numerous advantages for your well-being, culinary pursuits, and garden might still be a well-kept secret. Cultivating horseradish presents an excellent opportunity to introduce some zest and piquancy into both your garden and your life.
And if you require further convincing, keep reading.
What is Horseradish?
To begin, horseradish belongs to the Brassicaceae family, making it a botanical relative of mustards and cabbage. It primarily grows as a perennial plant, primarily prized for its roots, which deliver the bold flavor sought after in various dishes and sauces. While technically classified as a vegetable, it often earns the herb label due to its culinary applications.
Furthermore, its leaves also hold significant value, particularly if you prefer milder flavors.
Why You Should Grow Horseradish in Your Garden
1. Easy To Grow
To begin with, horseradish proves exceptionally low-maintenance in the realm of gardening. It thrives in full sunlight and flourishes in a broad range of climates (suitable for USDA planting zones 3 – 9), performing at its best in areas where temperatures hover between 45°F and 75°F. Remarkably, it can endure harsh winter conditions, even in some of the chilliest locales.
Caring for horseradish is a breeze, sparing you from any significant gardening woes. Surprisingly, your main challenge might be containing its exuberance rather than coaxing it to grow. If this humble vegetable didn’t serve such a useful purpose, you might mistake it for a weed due to its rapid spread.
Despite its somewhat “invasive” reputation, controlling horseradish isn’t a formidable task. The most effective approach to keep it in check involves planting it in containers or raised beds. While it can be ready for harvest in as little as four months after planting, it’s advisable to allow it to establish itself over a season or two before reaping the rewards. Its leaves also grow swiftly and prove equally valuable in culinary endeavors, alongside its roots.
2. One Root for a Lifetime Supply
A compelling incentive to cultivate your horseradish lies in the fact that a single root can suffice for a lifetime’s worth. Whether you acquire your roots from a nursery or a reputable grocer, either option will suffice.
3. Superior to Storebought
Similar to any homegrown vegetable or herb, horseradish cultivated in your garden boasts a flavor far superior to its store-bought counterparts. The richness of its spicy essence becomes fully apparent the moment you slice or grind the fresh roots or leaves.
This burst of flavor can be attributed to the disruption of a chemical compound known as allyl isothiocyanate. When the plant is cut, ground, or grated, it interacts with the plant’s enzymes, intensifying its distinctive taste.
Furthermore, growing your own horseradish is not only cost-effective but also more nutritious and environmentally friendly compared to store-bought options.
4. Diseases and Pests
Caring for horseradish not only proves relatively simple but also entails minimal concern over diseases and pests. Few gardeners report issues with their horseradish, and when problems do arise, they tend to be easily manageable.
One common annoyance is the presence of aphids, a familiar headache for many home gardeners, which tend to target horseradish leaves. However, they are not particularly resilient. Depending on the extent of the infestation, you can simply handpick and dispose of them. Equipping yourself with a trusty water spray bottle containing natural soap can also effectively deter them from your leaves.
As a root vegetable, horseradish is susceptible to rot and soil-borne fungal diseases. Yet, this typically becomes a concern only when incorrect watering practices prevail, resulting in consistently damp soil. To avoid such issues, ensure that the soil surrounding your horseradish remains adequately moist but never waterlogged. This precaution should keep problems at bay.
5. Good For Your Garden
Horseradish proves to be a valuable companion plant (when its growth is regulated) due to its strong aroma, which acts as a natural deterrent for numerous pests. Additionally, the root’s natural oils help reduce the occurrence of soil-borne fungal diseases. It’s a common choice for planting alongside potatoes and a variety of fruit trees, including apple, pear, and cherry trees.
For enhanced anti-fungal benefits, you can mince the horseradish root and combine it with water to create an effective anti-fungal spray. This spray can be employed to combat various diseases, such as brown rot.
However, it’s essential to exercise caution when selecting neighboring vegetables in your garden. The pungent roots of horseradish can influence the taste of nearby vegetables, particularly leafy greens and beans. While consistently peppery greens may appeal to some palates, they might not suit everyone’s taste, so consider the placement of your horseradish accordingly.
6. Good For You
Horseradish offers a multitude of health advantages. This vegetable is rich in vitamins and essential nutrients, boasting noteworthy levels of calcium and vitamin C. Moreover, it contains the chemical compound allyl isothiocyanate, which possesses antibacterial and antifungal properties, benefiting both plants and humans. These properties contribute to the fight against bacterial diseases, and some believe that they may have the potential to treat urinary tract infections.
These attributes, combined with the potent aroma of the roots, are recognized for their ability to alleviate symptoms associated with colds and flu. Additionally, they have the potential to mitigate mucus accumulation and enhance overall circulation.
Furthermore, numerous studies indicate that horseradish possesses cancer-fighting qualities. Its chemical compounds are purported to hinder the proliferation of cancer cells and bolster one’s overall immune response.
7. Preserve, Preserve, Preserve
You might find yourself with an abundance of horseradish, but worry not, as preservation is a straightforward solution. Horseradish preserves exceptionally well, as evident from the rows of jars in stores, and you can even opt to freeze it.
We’ll delve into the details of harvesting and storage shortly, but it’s worth noting that preserved horseradish can comfortably last in your refrigerator for nearly four months. Moreover, frozen horseradish maintains its quality for up to six months. While it may slightly mellow in its bold flavors during freezing, it remains just as pungent as the store-bought variety.
8. Great Addition to Your Homemade Meals
Whether you opt for preserved or fresh horseradish, incorporating it into your homemade condiments and culinary creations is a surefire win. With its added health benefits and delightful flavor, there are no limitations to its culinary versatility.
The adaptability of horseradish opens up a plethora of meal options, and its unique flavor is bound to pleasantly surprise the palates of your dining companions. Infuse a burst of zest into plain wraps and sandwiches, integrate it into creams, dips, and sauces, or serve it alongside a chilled Bloody Mary.
Alternatively, you can gather a few horseradish roots and craft your homemade mock wasabi. Given the challenges associated with growing and sourcing true wasabi, most of the wasabi we encounter with sushi is, in fact, composed of horseradish. Blend some fresh horseradish with a touch of mustard, add a hint of green food coloring, and no one will be able to distinguish the difference.