Armoracia rusticana, better known as horseradish is a perennial herb native to Europe and Asia belonging to the cabbage and mustard family. It is a small plant, reaching a height of one metre, bearing white flowers. The fleshy roots of the plant are harvested and made into a condiment that is a traditional accompaniment to red meat. The fresh horseradish root varies in size from that of a human finger up to a large carrot.

Uncut horseradish is as innocuous as any other root vegetable, however once prepared it takes on a pungent, sinus-hammering alter ego. The reason for this pungency lies with isothiocyanates, compounds released only when the tissue structure of the root is damaged. Hence, all prepared horseradish is found grated or pureed.

There are numerous brands of bottled horseradish available and most people seem to have their favourite, but as always, the home made product is superior. If you can manage to find horseradish root at your greengrocer, here is a method on how to deal with it.

Peel the roots and clean them of any grit. Using a cheese grater, grate the horseradish on the coarsest holes. Place the horseradish in a kitchen blender with a small amount of white wine vinegar and puree, using a little more vinegar if required. Store in the refrigerator and it will last for months. Now, I have read that acid has a negative effect on the pungency of isothiocyanates, but I have never had any trouble with this method, sniff it and see. NO. I am only kidding! Do not sniff freshly pureed horseradish unless you want to lie down for a while.

You can serve it as is, alongside roasted and grilled meats, but it is extremely strong. Try mellowing it a little by mixing together with equal quantities of sour cream or creme fraiche.

  • As an aside, I have heard that many commercial preparations of the Japanese horseradish Wasabi, Wasabia japonica are simply European horseradish with a bit of green food colouring. This is no doubt due to the exorbitant cost of fresh wasabi root - $150 AU per kilogram the last time I shelled out for it.

Horseradish can also be prepared, more quickly and with much less pain, by using a food processor. After peeling and cleaning the root, as described in sneff's writeup above, chop the horseradish into chunks about an inch across, and toss into the food processor. Put in a teaspoon to a tablespoon of vinegar. A few quick pulses will reduce the chunks to a grated consistency. This is far less time-consuming and tear-generating than grating the root by hand.

Good, fresh horseradish is an essential ingredient for the best shrimp cocktail.

My grandpa, as I have mentioned before, is the coolest man on the face of the earth; or at least in my own little world. He is on the older side and for as long as I can remember he has been retired. What does he do to fill his long workless days other than eat, sleep and watch TV? Why, he works in his garden of course. My grandfather owns a nice plot of rich Ohio soil, and forever my grandfather has done something agricultural with it, even while he worked in the local factory.

Out of the many many things my grandpa grows, he grows horseradish. Horseradish is one of those things that you should only harvest in months whose names have an "R" in them. For example, March. He usually uses his free time in the winter to process it for the coming months, but recently the ground has been too frozen to dig it up. I guess he wanted us to take some home so that we could enjoy the horseradish goodness instead of giving us a jar like he normally does. Maybe he wanted help digging it up, but whatever the circumstance the three of us found ourselves traipsing out there one chilly March day in search of some good horseradish.

How many people have dug up their yards? How many people have ever been encouraged to dig up the yard? While we were digging for horseradish we were pulling up some sod too. Interestingly I went to put all the dirt back in neatly so that the grass would grow back, my grandpa stopped me, "No don’t put it back in like that, I don’t want the grass to grow, I want the horseradish to grow instead". I stood there and cracked up. How many people would admonish someone for not trying to kill the grass?

Grandpa's Horseradish Recipie

  • 1 cup horseradish (peeled and chunked)
  • 1 cup water

Grind the two in a blender until smooth.

That’s it. Store in the fridge, this stuff will last FOREVER.

Horseradish is one of the things often used for Maror, the "bitter herbs" on the Seder Plate for the Seder Meal on the first night (First two nights outside of Israel) of Pesach in Jewish tradition.

Although the centre of the Seder is the meal, there are various prayers and rituals around the meal, to remind the participants of the exodus of the Jews from Egypt as described in the book of Exodus.

One part of this is remembering the bitterness of the slavery of the Jews in Egypt. This is symbolised by all present eating something with a bitter and unpleasant taste. There are various customs as to what is used, which are often based around what food would be available that has the appropriate taste. Many Jews who decend from Eastern Europe - Ashkenazi Jews - use horseradish, either grated or chopped into large chunks. Romaine lettuce is also common.

The Horseradish is dipped in or mixed with Charoset - a sweet mixture that resembles cement (to remind us of the building the Jews did in Egypt). This symbolises that at first the Jews worked happily in Egypt, until it became slavery. Because of this, many people shake most of the Charoset off before eating the Horseradish.

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