AUBURN, Ala. – Horseradish is a popular food choice that provides a spicy flavor to meals. People grow it for the hot taste that the taproot of the plant has. An oil you find in the root cells creates the hot smell and flavor. Unknown to most, people can grow horseradish in a garden, much like other garden plants. Extension professionals offer advice on planting and growing horseradish.
Planting and Growing
Horseradish is a hardy perennial, but in some southern areas of Alabama, gardeners grow it as an annual because of the lack of cool weather.
“This popular condiment cannot start from seed,” said Evan Ware, an Alabama Extension home grounds, gardens and home pests agent. “It must be establish through dormant side roots or secondary roots called sets.”
In Alabama, people plant horseradish in the spring and is ready to harvest in the fall. Plant root sets in 4 to 5-inch deep furrows at least 18 to 24 inches apart. The roots must have room to grow and expand. Gardeners may want to plant it in a bed by itself because, in some cases, the plants can grow aggressively and take over other plants.
Plant horseradish in rich, moist, deep-tilled loam or sandy loam soil with good drainage. The soil’s pH level should range between 5.5 to 6.8. This range allows micronutrients, such as boron, to be available to the plant.
“Horseradish has a high requirement for boron, but don’t add it to the soil unless a soil test recommends it,” Ware said. “Also, fertilizing with too much nitrogen can result in too much top growth and not enough root growth.”
Grinding and Storing Horseradish
People use horseradish in many ways. Add to mayonnaise or salad dressings, spread on crackers or put on bread for sandwiches for a spicy kick. Barbecue sauce or grated and placed on one side of meat to add flavor while it’s grilling is another great use.
Ware said that there are certain steps to grinding fresh horseradish.
“Peel and cut the root into small cubes and place them in a food processor or blender with a small amount of water and begin chopping,” said Ware. “Make sure you have good ventilation because the odor will be overwhelming. When it is first crushed, the hot flavor is strong, but once exposed to air, it loses its pungency quickly.”
To add a complete flavor, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt per 1 cup of blended or chopped horseradish. You can also add two to three tablespoons of white vinegar, which will serve as a stabilizer. If you add the vinegar before blending, the flavor will be more mild. For a hotter flavor, add the vinegar about three minutes after blending.
Prepared horseradish does not have a long shelf life and people must store it properly. Store it in an airtight container up to four to six weeks in a refrigerator, or in a freezer for six months or longer. Store washed, fresh roots in a sealed plastic bag at 30 to 32 F in a dark location. They can turn green when exposed to light.