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HORSERADISH
Armoracia rusticana Syn. Cochlearia armoracia, Armoracia lapathifolia
Family : Cruciferae
Description
Horseradish is a hardy perennial plant of the mustard family. Its hotly pungent, fleshy root is used as a condiment or table relish, mainly in the form of a sauce to enhance seafoods and meats; the root is traditionally considered medicinal. Horseradish has been used in the kitchens of Europe since the Middle Ages. It is said to be one of the bitter herbs eaten by the Jews of Passover.
Botany
Native to Mediterranean lands, horseradish is now grown throughout the temperate countries of Northern and South-eastern Europe and in Scandinavia. In many cool, moist areas it has become a troublesome weed. Large (up to 1m), coarse, oval, glossy-green basal leaves with pronounced pale veins arise on long stems from the crown atop the large white root. Roots are pungent and grow up to 60 cm. Small off-white flowers are borne in terminal or axillary racemes; small oblong pods are tipped by a short, persistent style.
Cultivation
Horseradish plants are invasive and virtually ineradicable. Cultivators propagate horseradish in the spring by placing pieces of pencil-sized roots in the soil at a slight angle with the upper ends covered 1 to 2 cm deep about 30 cm apart in ridges of rich soil. Although a perennial herb it is better cultivated as an annual crop. All but the terminal shoots are removed to prevent later formation of multiple crowns, and the side roots are also rubbed off to minimize branching and crooked formation. All this work is done by hand. The process is repeated after six weeks, removing the soil from the upper part of the root and replacing it afterward. Roots are harvested after one growing season. They are plowed from the soil, washed, trimmed for storing in boxes of moist sand. Processors grate the root tissue and pack it in white vinegar.
Culinary use
Horseradish is a potent gastric stimulant and is the perfect accompaniment for rich or fatty foods. It is richer in Vitamin C than lemons or oranges. Young leaves are used for flavouring in salads, or cooked. Roots are often made into a sauce.
Medicinal and other use
Horseradish is used medicinally as a digestive, antiseptic and stimulant. It is also useful to make poultices for rheumatism, chest complaints and circulation problems.