In a recent post where I described how to make the master tonic
, one of the healthy ingredients was horseradish. Although my own dad used to grow this crop in his veggie garden and my mother would then make horseradish sauce to serve with the traditional British meal of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, I realized that I did not know much about the root itself.
I have now found out more...
It originated in south-eastern Europe and western Asia and is very hardy as it is resistant to both low temperatures and to droughts. It loves a soil rich in humus and space to breathe because it can grow up to 5 to 6 feet high with its large edible leaves, branched stem and of course the main reason for its existence – the root.
So what are the benefits of this root with its tasty kick?
- The thick and pulpy yellow colored roots have antibiotic, anti-inflammatory and even aphrodisiac type properties.
- The root is strongly anti-cancer because it is a member of the same family of plants as cabbage, radishes, kale, broccoli and cauliflower and we all know how well they fight cancer. Horseradish is rich in compounds called glucosinolates, helping rid the body of everyday pollution toxins and carcinogens in food, by activating enzymes in the liver. In fact, horseradish has ten times the amount that broccoli does. In addition, the glucosinolates in horseradish may also be more bioavailable than those in other cruciferous vegetables. For example, a natural enzyme (that helps break down these cancer fighting chemicals into a form the body can use) is released when horseradish root is processed to make horseradish sauce – an unusual occurrence when cooked triumphs over raw.
- Horseradish is a potent gastric stimulant, increasing appetite and aiding in digestion.
- Being very rich in vitamin C means horseradish helps boost the immune system, helping to alleviate viral and other infections and protects from inflammation.
- The spicy root is also a source of vital minerals like sodium, potassium, manganese, iron, copper, zinc and magnesium. In addition, the horseradish has small amounts of essential vitamins such as folate, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid.
- While horseradish is very low in calories, its spicy taste makes food more filling so those worrying about weight are happier to eat less.
- Horseradish is also great for a stuffy nose or sinus infection, helping to unblock the sinuses in a similar way that hot and spicy foods containing peppers do.
In the kitchen, you can use horseradish in these ways
- As a tasty and healthy substitute for mayonnaise.
- Popped into sandwiches for an extra bite to the filling.
- Served with roasts and stews - especially in winter to add some extra heat - by cutting off the brown peel and shredding or grating some fresh horseradish.
- Freshly shredded horseradish also makes a great addition to mashed potatoes.
- You can make horseradish cream as a topping to thick soups or served in place of traditional creamed horseradish.
- Horseradish greens are edible too so look out for them at farmers markets. You can steam them in much the same way as other green leafy veggies.
How to select, store and serve horseradish
In cold climates, horseradish root is harvested in late fall when the leaves have been finished off by the first frosts. Select young firm roots with cut ends that look fresh, avoiding wilted or bitter green-tinged roots. Store loosely in a paper pack, or wrapped in plastic, and place in the refrigerator for weeks if necessary.
Prepare by freshly grating and mixing with some white vinegar for immediate use. For long term storage cut horseradish into one-use pieces and store sealed in plastic in the freezer. Another way to keep horseradish fresh to peel it, cut it into chunks, put the chunks into a sealable jar, and cover the horseradish with vinegar. The flavor will soften as it's stored, but it will keep some of its kick and you'll have a wonderfully aromatic horseradish vinegar to use as well.
A word of warning
Horseradish is not suitable for children younger than four years and not recommended for anyone suffering from gastric ulcer, goitrous problems or renal illnesses.