How to Plant and Grow Horseradish
Horseradish is a cold-hardy perennial grown, eaten, and used medicinally all over the world. Though most often grown for its aromatic roots—which have been known to grow up to 2 feet long—the leaves are also edible. It's a member of the mustard family, which also includes arugula, watercress, broccoli, cabbage, kale, and a number of other common garden veggies.
The plant can easily get out of control in the garden, however, as it spreads prolifically. For this reason, it is often grown in containers. This article will show you how to grow it in your own backyard, including instructions for preparing and preserving horseradish and a delightful recipe for radish relish.
How to Plant Horseradish
Here are some helpful tips for how to best go about planting horseradish in your yard:
Preparing the Site
Plant horseradish in full sun. It will tolerate partial shade, but it prefers a very sunny location. Soil should be rich, loose, and well drained. Prepare the soil to a depth of 18 inches, removing any stones or obstacles that might cause the root to become gnarled or split. Add plenty of compost to the planting bed to keep the soil loose so that roots can grow freely. Horseradish grows best in a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.8.
Plant crowns, seeds, or root cuttings four to six weeks before the average last frost date in your region.
Planting and Spacing
Horseradish is most often grown from crowns or root cuttings. There are several techniques for planting horseradish.
- Set crowns just at soil level.
- Plant small roots in shallow trenches and cover with 2 to 3 inches of soil.
- Plant root cuttings on a 45 degree angle with the narrow end down. Fill the trench until the wide end of the root is just covered.
Space cuttings 2 to 3 feet apart. If planting rows, space them 18 inches apart.
Growing From Seed
Prepare the bed as described above. Dig a furrow 3–5 inches in depth. Sow seeds in the furrow and cover with loose soil or compost. When seedlings begin to appear, thin them to 1 foot apart. When they are 4 inches tall, thin them again to 2–3 feet apart.
To contain horseradish in the garden, set borders 2 feet deep around the plants to prevent it from spreading.
Growing in a Container
Choose a container that is a minimum of 3 feet deep to allow the roots to grow freely.
How to Care for Horseradish
Here are some cultivation and maintenance tips for taking care of your horseradish plant:
Water and Feeding
Water on a regular schedule, keeping the soil evenly moist to prevent roots from drying out and becoming fibrous. Soil should feel as moist as a wrung-out sponge, not waterlogged. Add compost or a low-nitrogen fertilizer to the planting bed monthly.
Horseradish grows well with potatoes and yams.
Encourage the growth of a large taproot by pruning away side roots. Use a spade to slice down around the plant at a circumference of 4 inches to sever side roots. Carefully dig out the cut roots. (You can eat them.) Another tip is to remove all but the center bunch of leaves from the top of the plant, pinching off any suckers as they begin to grow on the sides.
Pests and Diseases
Horseradish has no serious pest or disease problems.
When and How to Harvest
Harvest 140 to 160 days after planting. You can begin to cut small sections of side roots as needed when the leafy portion of the plant is about a foot tall. Horseradish grows best in late summer and into fall, so leave the main root to grow until the first frost.
Although horseradish is a perennial plant, it tastes best in the first year, and the roots become tough and woody in subsequent years. Harvest fully in mid-autumn at first frost, removing all of the roots. In cold climates, be sure to harvest before the ground freezes. You can save a cutting and replant it in order to grow a brand new horseradish plant for the next season.
How to Store and Preserve
Chopped or grated horseradish stores in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Whole roots can be washed and stored in the fridge in a perforated plastic bag for up to three months. To freeze horseradish, grate the roots and soak them in a mixture of 50% water and 50% white vinegar. Drain and pack in zipper bags.
To store in a cold cellar, bury the roots in sawdust for winter storage.
A Brief History of Horseradish
The aromatic roots of the horseradish plant have been prized for their medicinal and culinary properties for 3,000 years. According to Greek mythology, the Delphic Oracle described horseradish to Apollo, the God of medicine, as "worth its weight in gold." From ancient Egypt to mysterious Pompeii, early civilizations depicted horseradish in their art and writings. Used for thousands of years, horseradish is also counted amongst the five bitter herbs used in the Jewish celebration of the Passover Seder.
During the Middle Ages, both the leaves and roots were used as medicinal remedies. Horseradish's culinary value as a condiment on meats began taking shape in Germany, Scandinavia, and finally, Britain. It crossed the Atlantic Ocean to North America during colonial times.
Herbal and Medicinal Uses
Horseradish contains several essential nutrients, including potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. In its raw state, horseradish boasts approximately 79.31 milligrams of vitamin C per 100 grams. Mustard oil is also present, which gives horseradish its antibacterial properties. Roots have been used to treat many conditions, including urinary tract infections, coughs and bronchitis, congestion, and even hangnails and ingrown toenails. Additionally, compounds present in the roots have been shown to kill some bacterial strains.
Additionally, anyone who has every breathed or swallowed horseradish without knowing what it was in advance can attest to its sinus-clearing capacity. A spoonful of grated horseradish mixed with honey is a common recommendation for naturally clearing nasal congestion in a flash. Eating horseradish regularly reportedly boosts immunity to coughs, colds, and flu.
Horseradish Sauce Recipe
A little of this sauce goes a long way. Use as a sandwich spread, a dip, or a topping for meat dishes. But beware . . . it is spicy! If you prefer a creamier sauce, stir in sour cream and Dijon mustard.
Store the sauce, covered, in the fridge. Without sour cream, it will last for several weeks. With sour cream, it will last about a week. So I recommend adding the cream only as needed, just prior to use.
To freeze the sauce, omit the sour cream and mustard. Freeze serving-sized portions in an ice cube tray. Once frozen, pop cubes out of the tray and store in a zipper freezer bag. To serve, thaw completely and add the sour cream and mustard, if desired.
- 1 1/2 cup of peeled and cubed horseradish root
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 2 1/2 tsp white sugar
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 cup sour cream (optional)
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard (optional)
- Process all four ingredients in a food processor or blender. When you remove the lid, keep your face away from the container, as the fumes may burn your eyes and nose. Cover and store the sauce in the refrigerator.
- For a creamier sauce, add sour cream and Dijon mustard to the mixture. Stir well. Cover and store in the refrigerator.
Bright and Cheerful Radish Relish Recipe
Horseradish is a healthy addition to one's diet, but it can be challenging to find ways to incorporate it into everyday meals. This versatile recipe can help. Not only does it include aromatic horseradish, but also healthy veggies, onions, and garlic.
The colorful relish is very pretty on the table and inviting to see and smell. It has a pungent flavor that adds depth to all sorts of dishes, including red meat, fish, rice dishes, casseroles, and even as a sandwich spread. Basic grilled cheese or ham and cheese sandwiches take on a whole new essence with the addition of radish relish. It is simple to make and stores beautifully in the fridge for many months.
- 3 cups red radishes, stemmed
- 2 large celery sticks
- 1 large red onion
- 2 tsp kosher or pickling salt
- 1 cup raw sugar
- 1 tbsp mustard seed
- 2 tsp dill seed
- 1/2 tsp celery seed
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsps prepared horseradish or 1 tbsp fresh grated horseradish
- 1 large garlic clove
- Finely chop radishes, celery, garlic, and onion by hand or with a food processor. Place them in a bowl and add all of the remaining ingredients. Cover and allow the mixture to stand for 3–4 hours.
- Transfer the mixture to a non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer for 10–15 minutes, until the liquid begins to reduce. Allow the mixture to cool. Pour into mason jars and refrigerate.
- To hot pack the jars for pantry storage, do not allow the mixture to cool before canning. Pour into hot, sterilized jars, leaving a half-inch head space. Adjust lids and process 1/2 pints or pints in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.