This past Wednesday we took the plow out to do some work in one of our participants gardens and after our work was done we left with an interesting and equally exciting gift: a horseradish plant!
Horseradish is one plant and food source that I know very little about and have never used in cooking, so I decided to do a little research and share it with everyone.
Horseradish is a perennial plant of the Brassica family, which includes turnips, kale, radishes, mustard greens, broccoli rabe, and many other similarly “spicy” plants. The name horseradish is said to be a combination of the word horse (formerly used as an adjective meaning strong, large, or coarse) and the word radish. Despite its name the plant is actually poisonous to horses. Horseradish is a strong and hearty plant that will spread easily, and requires little attention once it is planted. Horseradish plants can tolerate just about any type of soil, but gardeners are warned to choose their planting site carefully, as you will not want to deal with moving the plant once it has taken root in the ground.
For culinary uses the root of a horseradish plant is harvested beginning one year after planting. Because the root has such a strong flavor, a little will go a long way and it can be stored for lengthy periods of time, so most gardeners will only need to harvest a root several times throughout the season. The basic preparation of horseradish is to wash and peel the root and then grate it in a food processor. Freshly grated horseradish emits fumes that can irritate the nose, lungs, and eyes so it is recommended that this be done in a well ventilated room or preferably outside if possible. As soon as the horseradish is grated you should add a bit of vinegar to it to stop the reaction of the fumes being emitted and to preserve the flavor. At this point the horseradish can be stored in the fridge for several months, and used to make many different condiments.
After a bit of research we went home and Maggie planted our horseradish in an out the way area near our house, and has been giving it a bit of water over the past few days to help it take root in its new spot. We have several more roots that we plan to make into horseradish this weekend if I can find an outdoor outlet on the house to plug the food processor into!