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This guide on how to grow horseradish includes everything you need to know about growing horseradish from roots.
Horseradish isn’t just a condiment in a jar before it ended up in the jar it started off its life as a garden plant! Did you know you can grow your own horseradish right in your own backyard? You can! Just think of all the recipes you could experiment with. Look below at some helpful tips for growing horseradish, and see how fun it can be to produce this plant right in your own garden. It has been called one of the easiest plants to grow, so even if you have a less than green thumb you have no need to fret. Here is what you need to know.
How to Grow Horseradish
First, it is important to mention that you won’t be able to find horseradish seeds, and in most cases, you will need to plant from a piece of root. Head to a local greenhouse and see if they have horseradish root cuttings. If not, you should be able to find some via online gardening catalogs.
Because the horseradish plant is planted from the root and not seed, we will bypass the “how to plant from seed” portion of this tutorial.
How to plant horseradish root:
Once you have your horseradish root in hand, it is time to get it in the soil! Begin by cutting off the top half of the root. This part can actually be saved and used in kitchen recipes. The bottom half will be used for planting.
There are two times of year you can plant: early fall and late spring. When planting, you want to be sure you are using well-loosened soil that is nutrient rich and drains well. Be sure your soil is loose and aerated at least 12 inches deep.
When planting the root, place it at an angle. A 45 degree or so angle works best. Bury it so 2 inches is peeking out from the soil. There is no need to worry about spacing, as one plant is typically enough to produce all of the horseradish you may need. Should you decide you want to plant multiples, they should be spaced about 3 feet apart from each other.
How to care for horseradish roots:
This is the best part! Once you plant the root, you can kind of…forget it! Just give the root a good 2 inches of water a week, and keep mulch thick around the base of the root. This will help keep moisture in and offers the root additional support.
How to grow horseradish in containers:
Horseradish tends to spread, and quickly, which is why planting it in a container is a good option. You will need a roomy container per one plant, at least 18 inches by 18 inches to be safe. You will still use the same soil suggestions and planting methods as mentioned above. It will be important to find a safe space for your planter since horseradish does take a long time to grow.
When to harvest horseradish:
While horseradish is simple to grow, waiting is a little more challenging. Your horseradish root will reach maturity in about one year. It is a perennial, so once you plant it you can leave it and allow it to do its thing.
After about a year, you can dig up the main root. An ideal time to harvest is after all of the foliage has been killed due to frost. Remove the side roots when you remove the main root, pull up, wash, and store in a cool place. Horseradish roots last a long time when refrigerated, so you can store them for a good 2-3 months!
Once you have your mature horseradish root, you can simply grate it and use the shavings in your own condiment recipes.
Are you ready to give horseradish a try? Consider these tips for how to grow your own horseradish now so you can enjoy fresh horseradish root later!
More Vegetable Gardening Guides:
About Alea Milham
Alea Milham is the owner of Premeditated Leftovers and the author of Prep-Ahead Meals from Scatch. She shares her tips for saving money and time while reducing waste in her home. Her favorite hobby, gardening, is a frugal source of organic produce for her recipes. She believes it is possible to live fully and eat well while spending less.
Robert von Achen says
HI ! i TRIED TO GROW FROM ROOTS THAT I PURCHASED ON LINE,IN A CONTAINER WITH A GOOD GRADE OF POTTING SOIL WITH COW MANURE AND THEY GREW RAPIDLY WITH ABOUT TWO FOOT STEMS AND LEAVES ABOVE, BUT THE ORIGINAL RADISH ROOTS WHERE GONE LEAVING STRINGY ROOTS IN PLACE OF THE RADISH ROOTS. i UNDERSTAND THAT IT TAKES A YEAR TO HARVEST BUT AM I ON THE RIGHT TRACK OR WHAT ? I RESIDE IN MELBOURNE BEACH FLORIDA.. THANK YOU ! CHEERS !
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Welcome. I’m Alea!
On Premeditated Leftovers I share simple recipes made with whole foods, practical shopping tips, time saving techniques, and meal planning strategies. I also share tips for minimizing food waste, so more of the food that is purchased ends up on the table.
While volunteering as a budget counselor, I realized that food is the element of most people’s budgets where they have the greatest control. I set out to develop low-cost recipes from scratch to prove it’s possible to create delicious meals on a limited budget. Eating well while spending less is about more than just creating recipes using inexpensive ingredients; it’s about creatively combining ingredients so you don’t feel deprived and are inspired to stick to your budget.
Cold hardy, a perennial crop, and easy to grow in sun or partial shade, horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) quickly makes itself at home in gardens. Horseradish roots are harvested in fall, winter or spring, and then peeled and ground before being enjoyed as a peppery condiment.
Growing horseradish is easy in Zones 4 to 7, where established horseradish plants require little care. In addition to growing horseradish roots to eat, you can use horseradish as a medicinal herb for clearing a stuffy nose. Horseradish tea is sometimes used as a preventive fungicide on fruits and other plants plagued by fungal diseases.
Types of Horseradish
Horseradish leaves vary in their broadness. Older strains of common horseradish have leaves that are up to 10 inches across, whereas “bohemian” strains have narrower leaves. The latter is the type of horseradish that is commercially grown, so you are probably growing horseradish with Czechoslovakian heritage if you plant horseradish roots purchased at the store. The ‘Maliner Kren’ variety is of this type.
How to Plant Horseradish
Planting horseradish is best done is spring, whether you begin with crowns from a nursery, or a root from the supermarket. Most households harvest enough horseradish for their needs from two or three plants.
Set out roots or crowns a few weeks before your last frost date, in any fertile, well-drained soil. Horseradish grows best in moist, silty soils like those found in river bottomland, but enriched clay or sandy loam with a near neutral pH is acceptable. Situate horseradish roots diagonally in the soil, with the slanted end down and the flat end up.
For recommended planting dates for your local climate — and to design your garden beds — try our Vegetable Garden Planner.
Allow upright horseradish plants a full season to establish themselves in the garden. The long, strap-like leaves often grow 3 to 4 feet tall; they should not be fed to livestock or people, but make good compost fodder. Remove weeds that crowd the young plants. Growing horseradish plants develop most of their storage roots in early fall, so they should not be allowed to run dry in late summer.
Overwintered horseradish plants may send up spikes of white flowers in late spring. Clip off the seed heads before they become fully mature, because horseradish easily becomes weedy.
Harvesting and Storage
Your horseradish harvest should commence in late fall, after several frosts have damaged the leaves. Use a digging fork to loosen the soil on two sides of the plant, gathering up broken pieces of root as you dig. Then loosen the soil on the other side of the plant before attempting to pull it. Set aside or replant root pieces the size of a pencil, and store others in plastic bags in the refrigerator. Harvesting horseradish can continue into winter provided the ground is not frozen — or, you can dig the roots first thing in spring. Between diggings, keep fresh horseradish roots in the fridge, ready to use.
To prepare fresh horseradish for eating, peel a root and cut it into small pieces, then puree in a food processor with just enough water for chopping. Add a few pinches of salt and a teaspoon or two of white vinegar, and puree until only slightly lumpy. Place in a small clean jar, and add more vinegar if needed to cover the horseradish. Use within two weeks by mixing with mayo or sour cream to make horseradish sauce.
Horseradish roots often wander several feet from the mother plant, and sprout new plants from root buds. These can be dug and replanted in any season, or you can simply replant 3-inch pieces of horseradish root. Horseradish should be grown near the outer edge of the garden in a permanent patch, because it is difficult to eradicate once established. Even small pieces of horseradish root left behind in the soil after harvesting will grow into new plants.
For growing advice for many more garden crops, check out our complete Crops at a Glance Guide.
Contributing editor Barbara Pleasant gardens in southwest Virginia, where she grows vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers and a few lucky chickens. Contact Barbara by visiting her website or finding her on Google+.
If you want to plant horseradish, now is the time! Spring is the season—but only in places where winters freeze hard. Here’s how to plant, grow, and harvest horseradish in your garden.
An exceptionally hardy perennial, horseradish belongs to the venerable plant family Cruciferae (“cross-bearing,” for the tiny, cross-shape flowers characteristic of all members of this family), which includes cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, among other commonly-grown vegetables.
Horseradish sends up coarse, elongated, emerald green leaves that resemble those of common curly dock. This foliage, which rarely grows more than 2 feet tall, belies the real action underground: In rich soil, the fleshy horseradish taproot can penetrate as deep as 10 feet if left undisturbed for several years and will send out a tangled mass of horizontal secondary roots and rootlets over a diameter of several feet.
If severed from the main taproot, any rootlet can give rise to a new plant; this is one way to start a crop. Aspiring horseradish growers can also obtain root cuttings—sometimes called “starts” or “sets”—from seed companies and from many local garden supply stores.
Horseradish roots pack a nutritional wallop that few cultivated plants, and certainly no other root crop, can match. The freshly grated root contains more vitamin C than most common fruit, including oranges. The root is rich in calcium, iron, thiamine, potassium, magnesium, trace minerals, and proteins, yet desirably low in phosphorus and sodium. Horseradish is 20 times richer in calcium than the potato (with skin) and contains nearly four times the vitamin C and three times the iron.
How Horseradish Gets Its Bite
Horseradish gets its characteristic bite from the interaction of two compounds, isolated from each other in separate cells of the plant. Intact roots and leaves have no horseradish-y smell but must be bruised, chopped, shredded, or chewed to bring the two compounds together. The finer the grating or grinding, the more pungent and richly flavored the root becomes.
Horseradish is a perennial vegetable or herb that is primarily grown for its pungent roots. This is the same horseradish that most people buy in a jar and use to spice up a variety of dishes, from roast beef to cocktail sauce, and to complete a Passover Seder plate. Horseradish leaves can also be eaten when they are young and tender, but they should not be eaten by animals because they are mildly toxic to them.
Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) is a clump-forming perennial plant in the Brassicaceae family. It is grown from root divisions and can be extremely aggressive. If you worry about horseradish spreading and taking over your garden, you can plant it within barriers—or you can grow it in a container, where you have the option of growing it as an annual plant with a single large root.
Horseradish is normally planted in spring from root segments or sometimes potted nursery plants. It will quickly grow and be ready to harvest by fall.
|Botanical Name||Armoracia rusticana|
|Common Name||Horseradish, red cole, German mustard|
|Plant Type||Perennial herb|
|Mature Size||12 to 18 inches tall; 15- to 18- inch spread|
|Exposure||Full sun to part sun|
|Soil Type||Loose, rich soil|
|Soil pH||Neutral (6.0 to 7.5)|
|Hardiness Zones||3 to 9 (USDA)|
|Native Area||Central Europe|
How to Grow Horseradish
Horseradish has long taproots, so well-prepared soil is important, since it is hard to correct the condition once a perennial plant is established. Create good soil conditions in the garden bed by turning in a couple of inches of organic matter.
Grow new horseradish plants with pieces of root that are about the diameter of a finger and 12 to 18 inches long. It will quickly spread, so you won't need more than one or two plants to feed the whole family. Dig holes about 6 to 8 inches deep and 12 inches apart. Plant one root per hole at a 45-degree angle with the crown, or large end, toward the top at the soil line, and the small end at the base of the hole. Backfill the hole to cover the crown of the root with 2 to 4 inches of soil, then water the plant well.
Growing as an annual: To get large horseradish roots like the ones you purchase in a store, consider experimenting with growing the plant as an annual, focusing on getting one large root rather than many smaller roots. First-year roots tend to be the most pungent.
Start with a bed prepared with lots of organic matter, and plant the roots as you would in the ground. As the plant starts to grow, it will send up multiple shoots. Each shoot is forming small roots and taking energy from the plant. To get one large root, remove all but one or two of the shoots and allow them to grow larger.
The Spruce / Meg MacDonald
The Spruce / Meg MacDonald
The Spruce / Meg MacDonald
The Spruce / Meg MacDonald
In general, horseradish is a forgiving plant that can handle a wide range of sun exposure. Ideally, however, horseradish thrives in full sun or part shade.
Horseradish likes a slightly acidic to neutral soil pH of about 6.0 to 7.5. A loose soil rich in organic matter will produce the best roots.
Horseradish is not a demanding plant, but you will get better-quality roots if you keep the soil well-watered, so the roots do not get woody.
Temperature and Humidity
Horseradish likes cool weather. Its ideal daytime temperatures range from 45 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Feed or side-dress your plants every three to four weeks. You can fertilize with compost, compost tea, or a commercial 10-10-10 vegetable fertilizer (following the product instructions).
Spring-planted horseradish roots will be ready to harvest in October or November. Harvest the roots in the fall, ideally after the first frost. Dig around the base of the plant and lift the large, central root and as many of the smaller roots as possible. In frost-free climates, winter harvest is recommended. If you want to eat some young horseradish greens, harvest them before the bugs eat too many holes in them. They grow back in a week or so.
If you are growing your horseradish as a perennial, you can leave some in the ground and harvest as needed. Just keep in mind that the more broken pieces left in the ground, the more plants you will have the next growing season. Alternatively, you can lift all of the roots and save some for planting the next year. Digging up the entire plant and saving pieces is often the preferred method because horseradish can become aggressive.
Common Pests/ Diseases
Few pests will bother the roots of horseradish, but there are several that will feed on the leaves, including aphids, beet leafhopper, diamondback moth, flea beetles, and imported crucifer weevil. The aphids can be washed off. If the other pests become a nuisance, consider growing your horseradish undercover.
Growing in Containers
If you are worried about horseradish taking over your garden, growing it in a container may be a better option for you. You'll need a sizable container, with at least a 30-inch depth for the roots to grow in. Plant the roots the same as if you were planting them in the ground. Container horseradish will need more frequent watering and monthly fertilizing.
Varieties of Horseradish
Common horseradish may be the only variety you will find. There is also Armoracia rusticana 'Variegata', which is more ornamental, with marbled leaves.
Spice up your backyard — and your dinner — with this rugged perennial.
When I was growing up, horseradish was something that lived in a jar in the back of the refrigerator. It wasn’t until a few decades later that I discovered horseradish as a garden plant — and the delights of using it fresh in the kitchen.
Homegrown horseradish has a clear, fresh taste and packs more zing than the store-bought variety. It also ranks in the top five easiest-to-grow edible plants because it thrives in almost any condition.
Horseradish is a rugged, cold-hardy perennial that grows best where there’s enough of a winter to force the plants into dormancy. You can choose from two widely available types of horseradish: common horseradish, which has broad, crinkled leaves, and Bohemian, which has narrower, smooth leaves.
Choosing a Site
Horseradish thrives in full sun but tolerates light shade. As for soil , horseradish can take almost anything but consistently waterlogged conditions. Site your horseradish in an out-of-the way spot because you won’t want to move this perennial once it is planted.
Grow horseradish from plants or root cuttings set out in spring or fall. You won’t be able to find seeds, but roots are often available at farmers’ markets, supermarkets, and retail and mail-order nurseries. (Root cuttings from nurseries generally come precut and just need to be planted.)
Cut off the top third to half of the root to use in the kitchen, saving the bottom part to plant. Loosen the soil to 12 inches deep and add a shovelful of compost. Plant the root cutting at a 45-degree angle, with the top of the cutting 2 inches below the soil line. One plant is usually plenty for a family. If you love horseradish so much that you need more than one plant, space them 30 inches apart.
Horseradish needs little or no attention in order to thrive. To keep the plant from looking ratty, water it once a week during dry spells and use a couple of inches of mulch around the plant to help conserve moisture.
The most common issue gardeners face with horseradish is not how to grow it but how to keep it from growing where they don’t want it. To control its spread, remove the entire root, including its branches, when harvesting. Then replant only the number of roots you desire as plants for the following season. Whatever you do, don’t till up ground containing horseradish root or place roots in your compost pile, because you risk spreading the plant all over the garden.
You can enjoy your first horseradish harvest one year after planting. Carefully dig away the soil from around the main root, taking care to free up the side roots and remove them at the same time. For the best yields, Oregon State University recommends harvesting after frost kills the foliage. Scrub the main root under running water and dry well. If enclosed in a perforated plastic bag, horseradish root will keep in the vegetable bin of your refrigerator for three months or even longer.
Newbie hint: For smoother, straighter, fatter roots, the University of Illinois recommends removing the suckers — leaf-bearing sprouts that form above ground. When the plants are about 8 inches tall, use a sharp knife to cut off the suckers, leaving only three or four at the center of the crown.
Freshly grated horseradish emits fumes that can make your nose run and irritate your eyes, so prepare it in a well-ventilated area or even outside if your eyes are extremely sensitive. First, peel a 3- to 4-inch section of root as you would a carrot. Cut it into half-inch chunks and drop them in a blender or food processor. Add 1/4 cup cold water and a bit of crushed ice and grind to a fine texture.
Making Horseradish Sauce
Customize the heat of your horseradish sauce by adding white-wine or rice-wine vinegar. For mild horseradish, add the vinegar immediately, either right after grinding is complete or during it. If you like stronger flavor, wait three minutes to add the vinegar. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon salt for each cup of grated horseradish.
In either case, pulse the machine to blend in the final ingredients. If your preparation has too much liquid, simply drain some of it off through a fine strainer until you get the consistency you want. Store your fresh horseradish in a clean jar in the refrigerator, where it will keep for four to six weeks.
Tip: Grating horseradish releases the volatile oils (isothiocyanates), which give horseradish its heat. Adding vinegar stops the enzymatic reaction. The longer you wait to add vinegar, the hotter your prepared horseradish will be.
Cooking With Horseradish
Most of us know horseradish as a classic accompaniment to hot or cold roast beef. Here some other ways to use the inimitable flavor of homemade horseradish. When using horseradish in hot dishes, add it just before serving, as cooking destroys its flavor.
Horseradish, Armoracia rusticana, is a large leaved, hardy European perennial herb that has been a culinary favorite for more than 3,000 years.
This fiery herb thrives in temperate climates and in the cool, high altitudes of tropical countries. Horseradish grows best in deep, rich, moist loamy soil, in a sunny location. Roots become malformed and yields are less on hard, shallow, stony soils.
Soil preparation and fertilizer
- Before planting horseradish, spade or rototill the soil to a depth of 8 to 10 inches.
- Turn under or mix in generous amounts of well-decayed compost or other organic material.
- Incorporate either a complete garden fertilizer (10-10-10) at a rate of one pound per 100 square feet or a large amount of well-decayed manure into the soil.
- Fresh or partly fresh manure used before planting will cause excessive top growth and forked roots.
- Let the worked-up soil settle a few days before planting.
- Plant root cuttings, sometimes called “sets,” in early spring as soon as the soil is workable.
- Space the sets one foot apart, setting them vertically or at a 45 degree angle.
- If angled, make sure that the tops point along the rows in the same direction. This makes cultivating easier.
- Cover the sets with two to three inches of soil.
How to keep your horseradish healthy and productive
- Weed control is especially important early in the season when the plants are relatively small.
- It is best to cultivate in the same direction that you planted the sets.
- Mulch around each plant with organic material such as compost or leaves. It will benefit the plants by retaining moisture in the soil, keeping the soil cooler and controlling weeds.
Lifting and stripping roots
- To grow high quality horseradish, lift and strip the roots twice.
- Do it first when the biggest leaves are 8 to 10 inches long and again six weeks later.
- To lift and strip, carefully remove the soil from around the upper ends of the main root. Leave roots at the lower end of the set undisturbed.
- Raise the crown and remove all but the best sprout or crown of leaves.
- Rub off all small roots from the crown and sides of the main root, leaving only those at the bottom. Return the set to its original position and replace the soil.
- The horseradish flea beetle is a serious pest on horseradish foliage.
- It deposits egg clusters on leaf petioles. The larvae burrow into the petioles and kill some of the leaves.
- Sprinkle wood ashes lightly on the plants to repel the beetles.
- Good sanitation practices in the garden are the best insect prevention.
Occasionally, horseradish may suffer from root rot. Select only disease-free root cuttings to use as planting stock. Rotate the planting site so you do not grow horseradish in the same place more often than every three to four years.
Horseradish grows the most during late summer and early autumn. For this reason, delay fall harvest until late October or early November, or just before the ground freezes.
Harvest by digging a trench 12 to 24 inches deep along one side of the row. Working from the opposite side of the row with a shovel or spading fork, dig the roots. Use the tops as a handle for pulling them laterally from the soil.
Trim the green tops so there is only one inch left. Trim off side and bottom roots. Save roots that are eight inches and longer for next spring’s planting stock. Cut the roots squarely across at the top and sloping towards the bottom. This will make it easier to know which end to set upright at planting time.
Tie cleaned root cuttings in small bundles and place them in moist sand. Overwinter horseradish in a root cellar or basement that stays between 32 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter. Do not expose the roots to light otherwise they become green.
If you cannot have the right storage and temperature conditions, harvest horseradish in spring rather than fall. Dig the roots as soon as new growth starts to appear in spring. Replant lateral roots for next spring’s crop. Roots left in the ground for two growing seasons become stringy and woody.
Storage and use
Store horseradish roots for fresh grinding in dark plastic wrapping in the refrigerator. Protect the roots from light to prevent their turning green.
The most common way to prepare horseradish for table use is to peel or scrape the roots. Grate the root directly into white wine vinegar or distilled vinegar. Avoid using cider vinegar, as it causes discoloration in the grated horseradish within a rather short time. Depending on your preference, you can slightly dilute the vinegar.
Bottle the horseradish and cap the containers as soon as possible after grating. Refrigerate at all times to preserve the pungent flavor. Freshly grated horseradish will keep only for a few weeks. Then prepare a fresh supply.
You can also dry horseradish, ground it into a powder and put it up in bottles in a dry form. Dried horseradish will keep much longer than the freshly grated product, but is not as high quality.
Only people who have grown horseradish in their garden know how truly pungent and delicious horseradish can be. Growing horseradish in your garden is easy. Just follow these tips on how to grow horseradish and you will be harvesting horseradish for many years to come.
A horseradish plant (Amoracia rusticana) is typically grown from a root cutting. These can be ordered from a reputable nursery or you may be able to find someone locally who is raising horseradish and would be willing to share some of their horseradish plant with you.
As soon as you get your root cutting in early spring, plant it in the ground. Dig a hole that is deep enough to stand the root up. While holding the root upright in the hole, back fill the hole until all but the crown of the root is covered.
Once the root is planted, water your horseradish thoroughly then leave it alone. When raising horseradish you don’t need to fertilize or fuss over the plant.
Containing a Horseradish Plant
Once your horseradish plant becomes established, it will be yours for life. One thing to keep in mind is that when growing horseradish, you need to either give it lots of room or provide firm boundaries. Horseradish will spread vigorously if steps are not taken to contain it.
If you do not wish for your horseradish plant to take over your garden either grow it in a deep container or bury a plastic tub around it in the ground. This will keep the growing horseradish plant in check.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to harvesting horseradish. One says that you should be harvesting horseradish in the fall, right after the first frost. The other says that you should be harvesting horseradish in early spring, when the horseradish plant needs to be divided anyway. Which of these is best is up to you. Both are acceptable.
Dig down around the horseradish plant as far as you possibly can and then with your spade, gently lift the horseradish root out of the ground. Break off some of the roots and replant them in the ground. The rest of the horseradish root can be processed into ground horseradish.
Raising horseradish is very easy to do. There is very little to know about how to grow horseradish. It actually does best if you plant it and then ignore it. Growing horseradish can be rewarding and tasty.
I love to eat prepared horseradish—I’ve put scoops of it on everything from roast beef to bratwurst, and it gives a nice oomph to my deviled eggs. After reading that the plant also repels potato bugs, I decided to grow horseradish at my community garden plot, which had been plagued by bugs. I’d also read that horseradish can be an aggressive plant, so I proceeded with caution.
Here’s how to grow it, how to keep it in check and, most importantly, how to make it into a tasty condiment that keeps well in the freezer.
I bought two tiny horseradish plants in 2014 at a plant sale. They thrived that year, bookending a row of potatoes in my sunny community garden plot. I did not harvest any roots that fall because I wanted to make sure the plants survived the winter. I laugh at that now, knowing how indestructible horseradish is.
After my plants were established, I began to see just how big they would get, and how quickly. Each plant grows 2 to 3 feet wide and tall, and they love to spread. Horseradish plants spread in two ways: first, they get flowers that set seed. Pollinators love the flowers that come in early June, and they’re pretty! I usually leave them on the plants until they’re done flowering but not all the way out to seed. Then I cut off all the spent flowers and compost them. This is the first control method.
Horseradish grows along the author’s path.
The second way that horseradish spreads is by its roots. Some of the roots grow straight down, almost like a carrot. But some of them take a sharp 90-degree turn and start spreading underground, sending up new vertical shoots. This is the second way that the plant expands its territory over time. We control this aspect of horseradish by making sure we harvest every year.
The best time to harvest horseradish is in late fall—preferably after a good frost. Harvesting is a little bit like dividing a perennial, such as a hosta. You spade down as deep as you can in a circle all the way around the plant. If your plant is large, spade through the middle, too, so you have manageable clumps to work with. Dig up as much of the plant as humanly possible, because small fragments of root will break off in many places, and they will pop up next spring. You will not kill the plant. I promise.
Lay your roots down nearby and take a look at them. Some of them will be about the size of a pencil. These don’t yield much after peeling, so I replant them for next year. Just dig a few holes and drop them into the spot where you dug the whole thing out. Those roots, plus whatever fragments you accidentally broke off when you were pulling the roots out will help you grow horseradish next year.
Nice young roots—similar in size and shape to a carrot—are easier to process than larger, tougher, older roots. These days, I get such an abundant harvest that I compost some of the difficult older ones.
Now comes the fun part, but first, a very strict warning. You must (like really, really must) process your horseradish outdoors. If you do it inside, you will be running out the door within five minutes, tears streaming and lungs burning. The gas that is released when horseradish is grated (by hand or in a food processor) has effects similar to tear gas.
I wait for a nice day, usually in October, to process my horseradish. After pulling it out (you could store it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for several days before processing it), wash it thoroughly and scrub off as much dirt as you can.
The author’s husband grates a horseradish root — he is OUTSIDE — that’s very important.
Next, peel and chop your roots. This is easier said than done because they can be quite knobby, but do your best. With a sharp knife, cut your roots into 1- to 2-inch pieces if you’re using a blender or food processor. Leave them closer to carrot-size if you’re grating by hand.
Now it’s time to grate your roots, and this is the time it is critical to be outside. I’ve done this two ways. You can grate them by hand with a fine cheese grater, or you can use a high-quality food processor or blender. If you use a machine, add a little water to each batch you process. I make a lot of horseradish every year, so I’ve switched to using a blender.
Your horseradish will taste hotter the longer it’s exposed to air. If you have a large amount to process, you have a choice: grate it in small batches, then finish and squirrel each one away in a tightly covered jar, or say to heck with it and let your big bowl of grated horseradish sit there getting hotter and hotter until you’re done grating. It’s up to you.
Either way, after you’re done grating, add 1 healthy pinch of salt and a nice splash of white vinegar (1 to 2 tablespoons) for every 2 cups of prepared horseradish. The vinegar slows down the chemical reaction enough that you can now take your bowl of prepared horseradish inside, taste it, and add more salt and vinegar as necessary. Then transfer it to half-pint jars for storage.
If it’s a little on the dry side, I like to add more vinegar at this point so that each jar is at least half full of liquid. The total amount of salt and vinegar that you add can vary according to your taste. Your prepared horseradish can be eaten right away, or it can be kept in the refrigerator for up to two months. For long-term storage, freeze it and it will remain good for up to a year.
Landscaping with Horseradish
As a garden plant, I’ve come to appreciate that you can grow horseradish for looks too. I divided one of my two community garden horseradishes a couple of years ago and added a new clump to the wildflower garden in my front yard. The plant is in part shade, so it doesn’t produce many flowers—one less control practice to worry about. It provides a nice, solid green, structural backdrop to my wildflowers, yet dies back to the ground in the winter. I don’t need to worry about shoveling snow onto it or protecting it from rabbits. The tender, early-spring leaves are edible.
I’ve never noticed if horseradish actually repels potato bugs, which was the first reason I planted it! But I’ve never seen a potato bug in my community garden plot since I added it there, and I grow potatoes every year.
If you’re ready to commit to some control practices, horseradish makes a great perennial addition to a mixed edible landscape or a vegetable garden. Or both!
Jennifer Rensenbrink grows wildflowers, vegetables and fruit in her tiny south Minneapolis yard as well as at a local community garden.