Horseradish harvest

Jars of grated horseradish

Last Sunday was the first 60F-degree day near the end of a long, cold, snowy winter, so I was in the mood to dig in the dirt. Several friends had requested divisions from my five-year-old horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) clump, so I figured I’d start there.

I never ate horseradish growing up. My only recollection of its existence was as an ingredient in Arby’s “Horsey Sauce,” which I never actually tasted, having been warned by my seasoning-challenged parents that it was “too spicy!” As an adult, realizing that horseradish is the essential second ingredient in shrimp cocktail sauce, I decided it deserved a place in my herb garden.

However, in four years, I’d harvested horseradish roots for consumption exactly one time; the suggestion is to wait until winter for best flavor, but then there’s the problem of frozen ground covered with snow. And who eats shrimp cocktail in the wintertime anyway? The horseradish didn’t need me and I didn’t need it, so we ignored each other and did our own thing.

Last spring, I decided I was “over” horseradish and needed its sunny location for something more exciting, so I tried unsuccessfully to dig the whole clump out. Ha! Some roots were as thick as my wrist and extended downward toward infinity, so I hacked at them as best I could.

Not surprisingly, the surviving roots produced a thick flush of new foliage a few weeks later, so I cut the leaves off at the ground. (The small, new leaves are edible, with a spicy taste much like the roots’.) Had I continued to harvest the leaves, I might have eventually exhausted the roots’ energy reserves, but the next thing I knew it was mid-summer, and the clump was every bit as vigorous as in past years. Anne – 0, Horseradish – 1.

So, back to sunny, sixty-degree Sunday. I wouldn’t want to deprive my gardening friends of some root-wresting adventures of their own – hey, they asked for divisions! – so I cut off some of the crowns, shortened each attached root to 2-3 inches, and potted them up. I felt like a kid who cuts the green top from a carrot and plants it to see if a new carrot will grow.

Oh, and I dug up a few huge root segments there were too grotesquely large to pot up, so out came the box grater and the vinegar. Summer’s coming… bring on the shrimp!

As always, feel free to email me with comments or questions.

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2 thoughts on “Horseradish harvest

  1. Freshly-grated horseradish can certainly be added directly to dips and dressings with no “treatment,” but it dries out and discolors quickly if not submerged. You could keep some roots in your fridge and grate when needed, but I prefer to clean and grate it ahead of time so it’s ready to use. I chose vinegar for no other reason than it’s what the commercial brands use. Note that I don’t use any heat process to preserve the horseradish, so the jars must be kept in the fridge! The horseradish itself is so pungent that the vinegar doesn’t add as much tanginess as you might expect.

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