Posts Tagged ‘Radish’

Did you know that horseradish is not in the radish family but actually in the family of cabbage and broccoli? It belongs to the family “Brassicaceae.” It is a native plant to Europe and Western Asia. It is a root plant that can achieve a height of about five feet!

Horseradish - Photo from the Botanic Garden in Utrecht, Netherlands

The root itself has little aroma, but when the root is grated or cut, that grate or cut damages the cells in the root causing the release of an oil in the plant that causes an irritation to the nose, eyes and the mouth. This is what we would also call the heat in the vegetable. Consider a hot mustard…same thing.

It is a perennial plant in zones 2 – 9, and can be grown outside of these areas as an annual. It is the main root that is harvested in the fall and the secondary roots, also removed from the ground, can then be replanted, and will remain in a dormant state until the following spring. It can also be an invasive plant by sending the offshoots of the root to the area surrounding it.

The root - Photo by Anna - Vienna, Austria

How did this vegetable get its name? Well as is usual on the internet there are all kinds of stories. One tells a story of a sick horse that they thought was not going to make it, so its owners let it eat whatever it wanted. It went to a weed that they thought was poisonous, and the horse miraculously survived! So they tried the plant themselves and found it delicious. The problem with this story is the horse ate the greens not the root. Another story is that the word is derived from the German word for the plant, which is “meerrettich.” It is believed that English speakers could not properly pronounce the “meer” part of the word. They would say “mare” which then they turned to horse. Another story indicates that the plant is a radish, and it was given this name to mean that the vegetable was “as strong as a horse.” So which is the right story? Who knows, so pick the one you like best!

The horseradish that we using in the kitchen is actually a combination of the root plus a bit of vinegar and cream. The most popular meat that this is served with is beef. But it can be used as a spread on a sandwich. And there is actually a cheddar made using horseradish that is wonderful on a roast beef sandwich. It is also added to the ever popular Bloody Mary beverage.  Try grating a bit of this root into your mashed potatoes for a bit of a zing!

It has medicinal properties as well. In years gone by it was used to help cure the common cold. It has also been used as a diuretic. It is also being used in the studies of cancer. It has been known to kill certain bacterial strains.

So next time you are at a dinner table where horseradish is being served, you can impart a bit of interesting facts about this incredible root!

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