Mankind has been planting and growing horseradish for centuries. Records indicate that the Egyptians cultivated this pungent root prior to 1500 B.C., Romans used it as an aphrodisiac, and grannies everywhere have used it as a home remedy for coughs and colds.
A member of the Brassicaceae family, horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) is closely related to Brussels sprouts, kale and cauliflower. The powerful root gets its sinus-clearing punch from volatile oils that are released when grated or crushed.
Horseradish health benefits include essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, calcium, potassium and magnesium. The pungent root is high in dietary fiber, known to boost the immune system and has been linked to cancer prevention.
Quick Guide: Planting, Growing & Harvesting Horseradish
- Grows easily in most areas
- Plant in full sun in rich soil
- Start with plants or root pieces in spring; harvest after first frost
- Pull off foliage to create larger roots
- No real pest or disease problem
Horseradish prefers rich, fast-draining soil and full sun. However, the perennial will thrive in almost all conditions, except deep shade or constantly wet soil. Prior to planting, choose a spot far removed from any other plants you care about. Horseradish spreads quickly and can soon take over your garden. The best way to control the root’s rampant nature is to grow it in containers.
How to Plant
Start by planting horseradish in the fall or very early spring. Set plants or root pieces 1 to 2 feet apart, with the crown – the top of the root and the start of the top growth – about 4 inches below the soil surface. Add a shovelful of organic compost to each hole and water thoroughly after planting.
To encourage the roots to be large and hot, try a method I learned from pulling stubborn weeds. After several attempts at grabbing them out by hand, I would finally dig them out with a shovel. Most of the time, I would unearth a massive root. Encouraging horseradish growth often works the same way.
Remove the top foliage of the plant several times. But remember, this is going to make the horseradish really strong – the larger the root, the stronger the flavor. Yum!
Harvesting and Storage
Dig roots in spring or fall, but for best flavor wait until after the first frosts. Brush off roots and store in the refrigerator. For longer storage, grate and keep in vinegar (1/4 cup for every cup of horseradish).
Insect & Disease Problems
Horseradish has no major pest problems. I guess they don’t dare bother this spicy crop!
Seed Saving Instructions
Grown from root cuttings, horseradish does not produce seeds in most regions of the United States.