The humble horseradish root has many health benefits for us.
But buying fresh, good quality horseradish (without it being part of a sugary, pasteurised jar of sauce) can be difficult. Luckily it’s easy to grow your own roots and fresh leaves.
Here’s an essential step by step guide to growing your own horseradish (Amoracia rusticana). It’s easy to do – though it can commandeer your garden, if you don’t keep it in check. 🙂
Horseradish is easy to grow from root cuttings, though you can also grow it from seed, if you really want to.
Here’s how to grow your own fresh horseradish roots and leaves.
- Find a friend with horseradish and persuade them to donate some root cuttings to you (or you can buy them from specialist growers). You want your cuttings to feel fresh (no mould or shrivelling) and to be 3″-6″ (7-15cm) long.
- Horseradish isn’t too fussy about its soil, but the roots can grow up to 2′ (60cm) deep, so they need soil that will let them do that without obstructions. They will benefit from fertile soil, like most plants.
- Plant 15cm (6″) root sections in autumn. These should be as fresh as possible, ideally with a small green bud, but it doesn’t matter too much if there isn’t one. If there is a bud, plant it facing upwards.
- Plant in a hole that allows the top to be about 5cm (2″) below the surface of the soil. This helps to protect the root from early frosts, while it’s getting established.
- Some gardening books tell you to plant the roots sideways, rather than pointing downwards. I have never bothered with this, as I figure that Mother Nature grows them vertically, so who am I to mess with her masterplan?! But if you have ever tried it, I’d love to hear how you got on.
- Plant root sections about 1-1 1/2 feet (30 – 45 cm) apart, to allow plenty of growing space.
- Don’t let the roots dry out in the early months. But once they are well established, you can leave them to water themselves, unless it’s really dry weather.
- Be careful where you plant your horseradish. It will be there for life and it can spread. Most people choose a corner of the garden where it can do its own thing.
How and when to harvest horseradish roots and leaves.
Horseradish roots are traditionally harvested in the autumn, once the leaves have started to die back.
It is a good idea to leave bits of root, to create new plants the following year. In fact, this is pretty much inevitable 😉
I have harvested roots all year round, without problems, but this was on a very established clump.
Try not to over-harvest your roots in the first autumn, while your plant is still establishing itself.
It may be best to harvest roots and handle them with gloves, as some people are sensitive to the juice (it can be a mild skin irritant) and, as with chillies, you don’t want to accidentally rub it in your eyes – or get it up your nose – it burns!
Roots are best used when fresh and still juicy, but they can also be grated and dried, to keep for use throughout the year.
Horseradish leaves can be eaten straight from the plant, especially when they are small and tender in spring. They are much milder than the roots. They add a delicious spicy pungency to salads and dressings. Once they are larger and tougher, they can be lightly steamed.
You can even add them to smoothies, for a bit of a kick.
A with any herb, don’t over-consume. The section on the health benefits of horseradish explains why!
How to eat horseradish
And, once your harvest is in, here are some ideas and recipes for eating, cooking or preparing horseradish roots and leaves.
Have you ever grown horseradish?
What were your experiences? How did you get on?
Do you have any questions?
Or any tips for newbie growers?
We’d love to hear from you, via the comments box.