It's hard to find a plant that's been put to more non-culinary uses than horseradish
has. Ancient Greeks grated it and rubbed it into sore backs to soothe pain. They also considered it an aphrodisiac, which may be why the Oracle of Delphi supposedly said that "the radish is worth its weight in lead, the beet its weight in silver, the horseradish
its weight in gold." Later on, Europeans thought it treated tuberculosis, and English inns added it to cordials designed to wake up tired travelers. But above all, horseradish has been a beloved condiment for centuries, often added to beef, fish and oyster dishes.
Did You Know?: This root vegetable used to be known as "redcole" and "sting nose,
" but it got the name "horseradish" from an obsolete use of the word horse to mean "strong" or "large." Prepared horseradish was one of the first ready-to-eat condiments
in the world, first bottled in 1860 and much loved by Americans (including comic strip character Dagwood, who can't get enough of it). Today, more than half the world's horseradish comes from Illinois.
While there are two kinds of horseradish—the common variety and the Bohemian—the only major difference is in the size and shape of the leaves, which go uneaten anyway. Bohemian is a little more resistant to disease during cultivation, but common horseradish delivers a tastier root.
When is Horseradish in Season?
You can buy horseradish root at any time, but it's especially common in autumn and
How to Choose Horseradish
Good horseradish roots are large and slightly conical. Choose ones that are hard,
not bruised or shriveled. Avoid roots that are starting to sprout.
How to Store Horseradish
You can keep whole horseradish roots in the fridge for as long as a week before using them. Or if you process and freeze it, horseradish will keep for months on end.
How to Prepare Horseradish
There's quite a difference between a large, brown horseradish root and the white, spicy condiment you spoon onto meat. To prepare the root, begin by scrubbing it with a stiff-bristled brush under running tap water to remove grit and dirt. Next, trim away any small offshoots from the large, central taproot. Now, using a sharp paring knife, carefully peel away the brown skin to reveal the white flesh underneath. This can then be blended in a food processor until smooth, and mixed with vinegar to produce a hot, spicy condiment.
Be sure to add the vinegar quickly, since grated horseradish turns brown and bitter when exposed to air. Also, watch your eyes: With its pungent fumes, horseradish rivals onions as a real tearjerker.
Generally, a recipe will call for small, conservative amounts of horseradish, usually in teaspoons or tablespoons.
Prepping horseradish in different ways yields different levels of spiciness. Mixed with nothing but vinegar, it makes a grainy topping that is quite hot. Add a little mayonnaise
or sour cream, and you get the slightly milder "creamed" horseradish. Add even more, and you'll have what's called horseradish sauce. To replace horseradish entirely, use wasabi instead.
Horseradish in Recipes
Two teaspoons of horseradish sauce are the secret ingredient in these spicy, thick-patty Broiled Dijon Burgers.
And a tablespoon of the stuff is the not-so-secret ingredient in these perky Horseradish Mashed Potatoes.
If a spicy fish dish is what you're after, eat this Crunchy Baked Tilapia with a teaspoon
of horseradish, a little mustard, a chopped green onion and some sour cream.