Horseradish is a perennial root crop indigenous to western regions of Asia and the southeastern parts of Europe. Sometimes, this plant is found growing naturally, but usually the herb is cultivated in different regions across the globe. The plant has an extended, white colored tuberous root that gives rise to a stem that is two to three feet in height. The stem of the plant appears in the second year of its existence. The plant is propagated by root division and once a few cuttings are planted, they grow quickly and spread over a large area. The horseradish plant reproduces in abundance and multiplies year after year.
Dried powdered roots of this plant form major ingredient of several herbal products available in the market. When the freshly dug roots of horseradish are scraped they release a number of potent volatile oils. Hence, it is essential to swathe the grated roots of this plant with apple cider vinegar and store it at a chill temperature in an air-tight glass jar. In this procedure the grated roots of the herb can be preserved for as long as three months. Alternately, the whole freshly dug out roots of the herb may also be placed in humid sand in any cool place in the basement or garage. However, when you preserve the horseradish roots as a whole, it is important to always maintain the moisture of the sand.
By soaking a small amount of the freshly grated horseradish roots in any cold-pressed oil of your preference, such as olive, sesame or wheat germ, for a considerable period you are able to prepare highly invigorating massage oil effective for alleviating muscle aches and soreness as well as clear up chest clogging.
In addition, topical application of vinegar prepared with horseradish roots help to improve the quality of your skin as well as eliminate all patches and blemishes from the skin. Horseradish vinegar is also an excellent hair wash and actually makes the dead scalp livelier. In order to prepare horseradish vinegar, swathe the freshly scraped roots of the plant with apple cider vinegar and place the container on a sunlit windowsill for approximately 10 days with a view to allow the substance to settle down. Next, sieve the vinegar in an airtight glass jar and preserve it for use whenever necessary. Before applying the horseradish vinegar on your skin, add an equal amount of water to it to water down the substance. Horseradish roots may also be combined with milk for facial application. When blended with milk, elements enclosed in the horseradish roots help to make your facial skin glow and also alleviate the prickling sensation caused due to eczema. To prepare the herbal formula, steep one tablespoonful of freshly scraped horseradish root in a cupful of buttermilk for approximately half an hour and then strain out the liquid mixture in a container. Apply the liquid on your face and leave it for around 15 minutes before washing your face with cold water. Preserve the remaining liquid in a refrigerator for later use.
An invigorating herbal tea can be prepared with freshly grated horseradish roots. This tea helps to warm up during winter season and also facilitates old people suffering from a sensation of cold in hands, feet and legs owing to poor blood circulation to overcome the subnormal body temperature (hypothermia). To prepare the herbal tea, add one tablespoonful of grated ginger root and an equal amount of grated horseradish root to one quart of boiling water. Cover the container and lower the temperature of the oven for about 10 minutes to allow the herbs to simmer in the hot water. After removing the container from heat, add two tablespoonfuls of fresh or dehydrated mustard greens and an equal amount of watercress. Cover the container again and allow all the substances to boil in water for approximately an hour. To add flavor to the herbal tea, include a pinch of powdered kelp and a few drops of lime juice. Drink this stimulating and flavorsome tea tepid once every few hours.
Although horseradish is presently underrated as a therapeutic herb, the plant possesses several remedial features. Use of this herb robustly invigorates the digestive system by enhancing absorption of foods consumed, augmenting the secretion of gastric juices as well as improving appetite. In addition, horseradish is an effective diuretic agent and endorses sweating. Hence, the use of the herb is beneficial during fever conditions, colds and influenza. Besides, this herb also possesses expectorant properties and is a gentle antibiotic that can be effectively used to treat infections in the respiratory system as well as in the urinary tract. Consuming a sandwich prepared with finely grated fresh horseradish root is an effective home therapy for healing hay fever. When applied topically, a poultice prepared with the horseradish root can relieve chilblains (inflammation of the hands and feet caused by exposure to cold and moisture).
As discussed earlier, it is always essential to use horseradish roots fresh and raw. This is primarily owing to the fact that once the roots lose moisture or are cooked they not only lose their heady and sharp flavor, but also almost all of its therapeutic properties. In order to organize the horseradish roots for cookery purpose, first you need to rinse, cleanse and scratched them thoroughly. Next, you either chop or grate the roots into slender shreds. Be cautious while doing this and protect your eyes from having tears, as the horseradish roots will emit an extremely overpowering and piercing smell. After the grating is complete, either use the horseradish without delay or mix it with vinegar. This is essential as the horseradish roots turns dark and lose its pungent flavor and becomes horribly bitter when they come in contact with air or heat.
If you wish to prepare horseradish sauce, which is traditionally taken with roast beef, blend the slender strains of horseradish root with white wine vinegar, some amount of sugar and whipped cream. Place all these elements in a blender or food processor and grind finely. When using a processor, grind the horseradish first and then add the vinegar, sugar and whipped cream. You should never add cider vinegar to prepare this sauce, as it will stain the horseradish root. Put the horseradish sauce in an airtight jar and preserve it in a refrigerator for as long as you want. In addition to roast beef, horseradish sauce also tastes delicious with ham and tongue as well as vegetables like broccoli.
If you prefer, you may also add finely grated horseradish root to tomato-based sauces to be consumed along with fish, particularly fish that enclose plenty of oil, such as mackerel. In addition, this combination may also be taken with delicacies prepared with shrimps. You may also add a few drops of juice squeezed from grated fresh horseradish root to add zing to applesauce, coleslaw, cottage cheese, prepared mustard, appetizers, dips and relishes.
Although it is not advisable to cook horseradish roots for they lose their pungent flavor and turn bitter, here is an exception. You may cook chopped horseradish roots and dish them up as an alternate for parsnips. You may also make your green salads livelier and tasty by adding young leaves of the horseradish plant collected in spring.
Habitat and cultivation
Horseradish is a perennial herb that is indigenous to southeastern regions of Europe and western parts of Asia. Presently, the plant has been naturalized in different regions of the world where it is grown extensively for its tuberous roots. Although this plant grows and thrives in nearly all types of soil, it develops best in profoundly prepared damp soil that is well-drained and also contains plenty of organic substances. To grow horseradish you need to prepare the soil in the same way as you do for other vegetables, tilling or spading the area to a depth of six to eight inches. The suggested pH range of the soil for the best growth of this herb varies between 6.0 and 7.5. It is important to water the plants regularly during the arid seasons or else the roots will turn weak and low-grade (dry).
Although the plant can grow in shade, it has a preference for complete sunlight. Horseradish grows most effectively during the later phase of summer and early part of fall because the plant can acclimatize very well to cool climatic conditions.
The horseradish plant does not propagate from seeds, but through root cuttings. While you may purchase young horseradish plants from your neighborhood nurseries, in case you have any existing plant nearby, you may cut the cylindrical roots of the plant into several pieces and grow individual plants from each of them. The root cutting bought from nurseries would be straight, slender roots similar to pieces cut from a larger root that is harvested to eat. These roots will be cut at a slant on one end, and that end should be planted downward. If you obtain horseradish root cuttings from a neighbor or friend, ensure that you plant the slant end that was not attached to the stem. This will prevent you from planting the root upside down.
For propagating the plants, the roots should be cut from the sides in plants that are around two years old. It is best to undertake root cuttings during the fall. Each root cutting ought to be approximately 2.5 cm or one inch in diameter and around 8 cm or three inches long. Fasten these root cuttings in small bundles and put them in moist sand in a cool place during the winter months. When it is spring, plant these cuttings with their top ends around 8 cm or three inches beneath the soil surface. Cover the top of the root with about two inches of soil and it should soon be growing with maximum effort. It is important to keep the beds free from weeds by cultivating the soil frequently. Remember the root cuts you have planted in your garden are vulnerable to root rot and a particular insect called the horseradish flea beetle.
As the horseradish plants reproduce in abundance, planting only three to six roots initially is enough for an average home garden. At the same time, ensure that you plant the root cuttings in an area that is away from the rest of your garden, so you don't have horseradish growing all over your garden.
Horseradish is a perennial plant, but generally this herb is basically grown as an annual or biennial crop since if one plant is allowed to continue growing for indefinite period, the flavor of the root will diminish as well as it will become problematic to control the rampant growth of the plant. In case you keep the plants for over two to three years, you need to divide the roots once every two to three years in order to allow the plants to remain energetic.
As mentioned earlier, presently the use of horseradish for therapeutic purposes has been neglected despite the fact that it encloses several vital elements that are effective in healing a number of conditions. Chemical analysis of the horseradish root has established that it encloses elements such as resins, asparagines, glucosilinates (chiefly sinigrin) and vitamin C. When the roots are squashed, sinigrin generates an antibiotic matter known as allyl isothiocyanate.
Horseradish roots contain valuable remedial properties and are used to treat a number of conditions. The usual recommended dosage of this herb is as follows: take half to one teaspoon of the freshly grated horseradish root thrice daily. A tincture prepared with horseradish root is also marketed commercially and you may use it in the measure of two-three ml thrice daily.
Side effects and cautions
Though horseradish root is effective in curing a number of conditions, overdoses of the herb may result in adverse aftereffects. Consuming extremely high measures of the horseradish root may result in vomiting or perspiration in excess. If you apply this herb or its products directly to the skin or if they come in contact with your eyes, it may result in irritation as well as a burning sensation. Some people using this herb or its products topically may also experience eruptions on the skin. Excessive consumption of horseradish may even result in diarrhea as it aggravates the mucous membranes. Hence, children as well as people enduring kidney, stomach or intestinal maladies should avoid or restrict their consumption of horseradish or any herbal product that contains the substance.
The herb also encloses compounds that can get in the way of the production of hormones by the thyroid gland. As a result, some people consuming this herb or products in which this is an ingredient may suffer from enlarged thyroid gland. Although this symptom is not a physical hazard for people who are in good physical shape, it is essential that people enduring thyroid problems should avoid this herb or any product containing it.
It is not advisable to feed pets or cattle with horseradish leaves as it may cause fatal conditions. In addition, it must always be borne in mind that though you may buy horseradish oil from the market and use it for cookery or therapeutic purposes, the substance is extremely strong and preferably not kept at home.
If you wish to use the easiest manner to consume horseradish, simply clean freshly dug out root, cut it in a slender piece and suck it tenderly without munching it. When you consume horseradish in this manner it emits its odor slowly and helps in drawing off the sinus when you have allergic reactions, get a cold or sinusitis. In addition, when you inhale the juice obtained by squeezing a freshly grated horseradish root in a piece of cloth or the dried powder of the root, it will result in sneezing, which, in turn, will help to relieve a frontal headache. Shredded freshly dug horseradish root may be used as a foundation in a counter-irritant poultice and applied topically to a swelling caused by cold, neuralgia (a sharp and paroxysmal pain along the course of a nerve) or a torn muscle. If you are suffering from bronchitis, moisten the poultice with some hot water and apply it on the back for more placate.
If you desire to use the herb internally, grind small pieces of horseradish root, approximately half an ounce or two gm per cup of water, and heat it for some hours. Heat the substance again, but don't boil it this time. If you prefer, you may add honey, elecampane roots, licorice or marshmallow to the solution. Drink three cups or 750 ml of the herbal preparation every day. This herbal solution is an effective remedy to clear congested lungs as well as intestines. Apart from using this solution as a remedy, this flavored substance can also be consumed as a marinade, seasoning or pureed.
Collection and harvesting
It is best to harvest the horseradish roots during the later phase of fall as they are tastiest then. After harvesting the tubular roots, store them in moist sand in any cool place for later use. As an alternative method, you may also preserve the roots in pierced polythene vegetable sachets and keep them in the refrigerator. In order to harvest the horseradish roots from the perennially grown plants, first remove the soil from the sides of the plant and hack the small roots that develop from the main root of the plant and store them as discussed above.
If you wish to harvest the young spring leaves of the horseradish, collect them at the earliest from plants that have survived the winter. Remember, if you leave the leaves for too long, they will turn dark green and soon become unfit for consumption. If you want to generate a crop of bleached, forced leaves, place a number of roots along with their crowns in a damp soil in some warm and dark place. You will notice that these horseradish plants will bear soft, sweet and whitish leaves in about two to three weeks. For best use, harvest the leaves when they have grown to about 10 cm to 15 cm (four to six inches) in length.
HORSERADISH SYRUP (UNCOOKED)
Useful and tasty syrup can be prepared with fresh horseradish roots. Here it is important to note that this delicacy will be uncooked. The ingredients required to prepare this enjoyable syrup includes:
Swathe the fresh horseradish roots with sufficient honey and place the mixture in a container and protect it with a cover that is not airtight with a view to prevent insects swarming it. Although the syrup will develop along the top at end of one week, allow the roots to remain in the container for about a month. For a 10-day or 20-day treat schedule with this syrup, take it in the quantity of 1 teaspoonful (5 ml) in pure or diluted in water form before meals thrice daily. This syrup prepared with horseradish root is an excellent home remedy for fatigue, arthritis, anemia, bronchitis, hoarseness and even hepatic deficiencies.