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Vermont Garden Journal: Growing Horseradish

Illustration by Keith Ward
Once planted, horseradish comes back year after year. Its roots transform relatively easily into a peppery, flavorful condiment.

The horseradish is a vegetable that dates back to ancient Greece where it was used medicinally for back pain and as an aphrodisiac.

Ancient Greeks loved horseradish. They'd say, “The radish is worth its weight in lead, the beet its weight in silver, the horseradish its weight in gold.”

The German word for it is meeratish or "sea radish."  English speakers mispronounced the word as "mare radish" and eventually started calling it horseradish.

We use this pungent root in mashed potatoes, cocktail sauces, or with lemon on fish and asparagus. A small amount packs a big punch.

While horseradish sauces abound in the grocery store, the flavor is much better from home grown roots and it's easy to grow:

  • Plant horseradish in full sun on all but water-logged soils and plant where you won't be moving it. The biggest trouble with horseradish is stopping it from growing. Never till it or throw roots in the compost pile, or you'll have horseradish everywhere.
  • Plant in spring placing four- to six-inch long root in the soil at a 45-degree angle about two inches deep. Keep watered and by the next year you can start harvesting. Harvest in fall, removing part or the whole plant, saving pieces for eating and replanting.

You can clean and freeze the horseradish root for later use, or blend it up with vinegar and salt to store in the refrigerator for a few months. To moderate horseradish's pungency, add vinegar. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons or white vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon salt for each cup of horseradish as you blend it. For higher pungency, wait 3 minutes, then add vinegar.
And now for this week's tip, pot up parsley, rosemary and chive plants now for bringing indoors this winter. Keep the pots outdoors for a few more weeks in part shade so they get acclimated to the container. Move them indoors before a frost into a sunny window to enjoy and use.

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