When I was growing up, horseradish was something that lived in a jar in the back of the refrigerator. It wasn’t until a few decades later that I discovered horseradish as a garden plant — and the delights of using it fresh in the kitchen.

Homegrown horseradish has a clear, fresh taste and packs more zing than the store-bought variety. It also ranks in the top five easiest-to-grow edible plants because it thrives in almost any condition.

Growing Horseradish


Horseradish is a rugged, cold-hardy perennial that grows best where there’s enough of a winter to force the plants into dormancy. You can choose from two widely available types of horseradish: common horseradish, which has broad, crinkled leaves, and Bohemian, which has narrower, smooth leaves.

Choosing a Site

Horseradish thrives in full sun but tolerates light shade. As for soil, horseradish can take almost anything but consistently waterlogged conditions. Site your horseradish in an out-of-the way spot because you won’t want to move this perennial once it is planted.


Grow horseradish from plants or root cuttings set out in spring or fall. You won’t be able to find seeds, but roots are often available at farmers’ markets, supermarkets, and retail and mail-order nurseries. (Root cuttings from nurseries generally come precut and just need to be planted.)

Cut off the top third to half of the root to use in the kitchen, saving the bottom part to plant. Loosen the soil to 12 inches deep and add a shovelful of compost. Plant the root cutting at a 45-degree angle, with the top of the cutting 2 inches below the soil line. One plant is usually plenty for a family. If you love horseradish so much that you need more than one plant, space them 30 inches apart.


Horseradish needs little or no attention in order to thrive. To keep the plant from looking ratty, water it once a week during dry spells and use a couple of inches of mulch around the plant to help conserve moisture.

Problem Solving

The most common issue gardeners face with horseradish is not how to grow it but how to keep it from growing where they don’t want it. To control its spread, remove the entire root, including its branches, when harvesting. Then replant only the number of roots you desire as plants for the following season. Whatever you do, don’t till up ground containing horseradish root or place roots in your compost pile, because you risk spreading the plant all over the garden.



You can enjoy your first horseradish harvest one year after planting. Carefully dig away the soil from around the main root, taking care to free up the side roots and remove them at the same time. For the best yields, Oregon State University recommends harvesting after frost kills the foliage. Scrub the main root under running water and dry well. If enclosed in a perforated plastic bag, horseradish root will keep in the vegetable bin of your refrigerator for three months or even longer.

Newbie hint: For smoother, straighter, fatter roots, the University of Illinois recommends removing the suckers — leaf-bearing sprouts that form above ground. When the plants are about 8 inches tall, use a sharp knife to cut off the suckers, leaving only three or four at the center of the crown.

Preparing Horseradish


Freshly grated horseradish emits fumes that can make your nose run and irritate your eyes, so prepare it in a well-ventilated area or even outside if your eyes are extremely sensitive. First, peel a 3- to 4-inch section of root as you would a carrot. Cut it into half-inch chunks and drop them in a blender or food processor. Add 1/4 cup cold water and a bit of crushed ice and grind to a fine texture.

Making Horseradish Sauce

Customize the heat of your horseradish sauce by adding white-wine or rice-wine vinegar. For mild horseradish, add the vinegar immediately, either right after grinding is complete or during it. If you like stronger flavor, wait three minutes to add the vinegar. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon salt for each cup of grated horseradish.

In either case, pulse the machine to blend in the final ingredients. If your preparation has too much liquid, simply drain some of it off through a fine strainer until you get the consistency you want. Store your fresh horseradish in a clean jar in the refrigerator, where it will keep for four to six weeks.

Tip: Grating horseradish releases the volatile oils (isothiocyanates), which give horseradish its heat. Adding vinegar stops the enzymatic reaction. The longer you wait to add vinegar, the hotter your prepared horseradish will be.

Cooking With Horseradish

Most of us know horseradish as a classic accompaniment to hot or cold roast beef. Here some other ways to use the inimitable flavor of homemade horseradish. When using horseradish in hot dishes, add it just before serving, as cooking destroys its flavor.

  • Mix homemade whipped cream with a bit of sugar, lemon juice, and horseradish for a heavenly accompaniment to steamed fresh asparagus spears.
  • Blend with yogurt, sour cream, or crème fraiche to make a delicious dip for raw vegetables. Add fresh herbs to taste.
  • Mix a bit into softened butter, along with chopped chervil, and serve on a grilled steak or melted over steamed beets.
  • Stir a teaspoon into homemade mashed potatoes.
  • Use a lemon zester to grate a few threads right off the root to make a pungent garnish for grilled fish, especially salmon and fresh tuna.
  • Add to your favorite homemade or prepared barbecue and shrimp cocktail sauces.

A horseradish plant. Photo by Mark Dwyer.

The International Herb Association has named horseradish, Armoracia rusticana, as their Herb of the Year 2011. This perennial plant in the cabbage family (Brassicaceae) is now grown for its root that is used to create a condiment, although in the Middle Ages both the leaves and root were used medicinally. The leaves are edible raw or cooked, but rarely eaten. It is thought to be native to southeastern Eastern Europe and western Asia, but is now cultivated around the world. It was brought to North America by the colonists. Most of the commercial production in the US is in California, New Jersey, Virginia, Illinois and Wisconsin. Japanese horseradish, or wasabi, is a totally different plant (Wasabi japonica) – it is an aquatic plant grown in cool, continuously running streams for the pungent stems or petioles. A substitute for true wasabi is made from ground horseradish, added flavors and green coloring.

Variegated leaf on a horseradish plant.

Horseradish plants grow as a rosette about 2 feet tall with a spread of 18 inches or more. The large, coarse, undulating leaves that grow on long stems from the crown provide a textural contrast in the herb garden. The textured leaves are a leaves are dark green, except in ornamental types which have irregular variegation in white or cream. The cultivar ’Variegata’ is a striking plant with variable markings. Some leaves have big blotches, others have fine markings, and some are almost completely white. The variegation may disappear when transplanted, but will eventually return once the plant is well established.

Horseradish in bloom. Photo by Mark Dwyer.

In early summer small white flowers are produced in terminal or axillary racemes on a tall flower stalk. The flowers are followed by small oblong seed pods.

The large, white, fleshy, tapered roots have a hot bitter taste. The pungency of the root comes from mustard oils (glucosinolates) released from the damaged plant cells when cut or grated. This quickly degrades and becomes unpleasantly bitter if not used immediately or mixed with vinegar to stop the degredation. These compounds will make your eyes water like onions can.

Armoracia does best in full sun, but will tolerate partial shade. It prefers deep, moist soil, but will grow just about anywhere. Lighter soils are best to aid in annual digging. Roots should be planted so the top of the root (where the shoots emerge) is at or just slightly below the soil level. Place the 8-12″ root segments vertically or at up to a 45 degree angle in the soil. Alternatively, the roots can be placed so that a few inches remain above the ground and then additional soil can be hilled up around the roots to cover them. They can be planted in fall or spring, from divisions or root cuttings purchased from a nursery or garden center (or possibly even from a grocery store). It has few pests, although imported cabbageworm larvae and flea beetles will chew holes in the leaves. Horseradish requires little maintenance after planting. However, if large, straight roots are desired, trimming the top part of the main root will produce a better product. Carefully pull the soil back from around the crowns when the leaves are about a foot tall. Cut off all side roots and leave only 2-3 sprouts forming leaves. Repeat the process 4-6 weeks later.

Armoracia rusticana ‘Variegata leaves’. Photo by Mark Dwyer.

This plant is hardy in zones 2-9 and may be difficult to eradicate once established because the smallest piece of root can grow a new plant. The plant spreads by underground shoots, out-competes almost all other plants, and can become invasive if not maintained. Burying a large plastic tub with the bottom cut out around the plant may help contain it. It can also be grown in a large, deep container if potential escape is an issue.

In commercial production there are two general types of horseradish, with the “common” type having broad crinkled leaves and superior root quality, while “Bohemian” types have narrow smooth leaves and somewhat lower quality, but better disease resistance. Specific varieties are rarely available to the homeowner, other than the ornamental ‘Variegata’.

Horseradish roots.

Horseradish is best when harvested in the fall after frost has killed the leaves or in early spring before growth resumes. Dig carefully to avoid damaging or breaking the large roots. After the roots are dug, the main root is harvested while the offshoots are replanted. Year-old roots have the most flavor. Older roots will be woody, pithy or hollow and not good for eating, although older plants can be dug to divide to start new plants. Spring-planted roots probably won’t be ready to harvest by the first fall; most gardeners dig those plants the following spring or fall.

A variety of commercial prepared horseradishes on a store shelf.

In cooking, prepared horseradish (or just “horseradish”) refers to the grated root mixed with vinegar. Prepared horseradish should be white to cream colored. Horseradish sauce is generally prepared horseradish with cream or mayonnaise added. This hot spicy prepared horseradish or horseradish sauce is often served with meat, chicken, seafood, and in sandwiches. It is a commonly used in Bloody Mary cocktails and is traditionally served with prime rib.

Intact horseradish roots can be stored under cool, dark conditions with high humidity (eg. in a plastic bag in the refrigerator) for a few months. To prepare the roots, clean them well and peel off the outer layer. Cut into chunks and grate or grind in a food processor with enough cold water (or a 50:50 mixture of water and 5% distilled vinegar) to blend together to the desired consistency. Then add vinegar to stop the enzymatic reactions and stabilize the pungency. The quantity of vinegar used is not as important as how soon after grating it is added – the longer you wait, the hotter the finished product will be. Using a mixture of water and vinegar during grinding will result in a milder prepared horseradish. A coarser grind will also be milder than a finely ground root. Salt, sugar and/or lemon juice can be added to the ground roots, but cider vinegar is not recommended as it can discolor the grated product. Processed horseradish can be refrigerated for 4-6 weeks or frozen for longer periods.

– Susan Mahr, University of Wisconsin – Madison

Download Article as PDF

Horseradish Care In Pots: How To Grow Horseradish In A Container

If you have ever grown horseradish, then you are only too well aware that it can become quite invasive. No matter how carefully you dig it up, there will undoubtedly be some bits of root left behind which will then be only too happy to spread and pop up everywhere. The solution, of course, would be container grown horseradish. Keep reading to find out how to grow horseradish in a container.

Horseradish History

Before we get into horseradish container growing, I want to share some interesting horseradish history. Horseradish originated in southern Russia and the eastern region of the Ukraine. An herb, it has traditionally been grown for centuries for not only culinary use, but medicinal uses as well.

Horseradish was incorporated into the Passover Seder as one of the bitter herbs during the Middle Ages and is still used to this day. In the 1600’s, Europeans were using this spicy plant in their foods. In the mid-1800’s, immigrants brought horseradish to the United States with the intention of developing a commercial market. In 1869, John Henry Heinz (yes, of Heinz ketchup, etc.) made and bottled his mother’s horseradish sauce. It became one of the first condiments sold in the United States, and the rest is history as they say.

Today, most commercially grown horseradish is grown in and around Collinsville, Illinois – which refers to itself as “the horseradish capital of the world.” It’s also grown in Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin and California as well as in Canada and Europe. You, too, can grow horseradish. It can be grown as an annual or as an herbaceous perennial in USDA zone 5.

I couldn’t resist imparting some interesting facts, but I digress, back to planting horseradish in pots.

How to Grow Horseradish in a Container

Horseradish is grown for its pungent, spicy taproot. The plant itself grows in clumps with the leaves radiating out from that root. It grows to between 2-3 feet in height. The leaves may be heart shaped, tapering or a combination of both and may be smooth, crinkled or lobed.

The plant blooms in late spring to early summer and becomes fruit that contains 4-6 seeds. The main taproot, which can reach more than a foot in length, is off-white to light tan. The whole root system can be several feet long! That’s why container grown horseradish is a great idea. You would have to dig a heck of a hole to get all of the root system out and, if you don’t, here it comes again, and with a vengeance the next season!

When planting horseradish in pots, choose a pot that has drainage holes and is deep enough to encourage root growth (24-36 inches deep). Although horseradish is cold hardy, plant your container grown root after all danger of frost has passed or start it indoors.

Take a 2” piece of root cut at a 45-degree angle. Place the piece vertically in the pot and fill in with potting soil amended with compost. Cover the root over with one inch of the soil mix and one inch of mulch. Keep the soil moist, but not wet, and place the pot in a full sun to semi-shady area.

Horseradish Care in Pots

Now what? Horseradish care in pots is pretty nominal. Because pots tend to dry out more quickly than in gardens, keep a close eye on moisture; you may have to water more often than if the root was in the garden.

Otherwise, the root should begin to leaf out. After 140-160 days, the taproot should be ready to harvest and you can make your own version of Mr. Heinz’s mom’s horseradish sauce.

Horseradish is a spicy, pungent condiment, and if you’ve acquired a taste for it, you know that fresh horseradish has a much better flavor than the processed store-bought stuff. While horseradish can grow in the garden, many gardeners choose not to grow it because it can spread through the garden like a weed. Instead, they hunt for wild horseradish.
Horseradish is a spicy, pungent condiment, and if you’ve acquired a taste for it, you know that fresh horseradish has a much better flavor than the processed store-bought stuff. While horseradish can grow in the garden, many gardeners choose not to grow it because it can spread through the garden like a weed. Instead, they hunt for wild horseradish.

Mid-summer is the time to find and dig up wild horseradish root. It can often be found on roadsides and edges of fields, in the northern part of the country. The plant has leaves very similar to red radishes that you would grow in your garden, only much bigger, bright green and shiny. If you’re not sure, dig down and pull out the root. It will be long and white, like a parsnip. If you still have doubts, break the root and sniff it. It will be hard to miss the horseradish aroma!

To enjoy wild horseradish, just grate or puree the root and serve it as you would normally serve horseradish. If grating by hand, be warned that the pungent aroma is many times stronger than onions. For long-term storage, layer minced horseradish and a syrup made from even parts white vinegar and white sugar in a jar with a tight fitting lid to keep in the refrigerator for about 12 months.


White flowers, 1/3 to ½ inch across with 4 rounded petals grow at the tips of numerous, elongating racemes that form a tight, showy cluster.

Leaves and stems:

Basal leaves are large, long stalked, generally oblong (rarely lobed) with blades up to 12 inches long and 5 inches across, typically heart-shaped at the base. Leaf edges are wavy with small, rounded teeth, the leaf surfaces glossy and hairless.

Leaves become smaller, narrower and shorter stalked as they ascend the stem, the upper leaves lance-linear with little or no stalk and sometimes toothless. One or more stems emerge from the basal cluster, branching in the flower cluster.


Pods are small and oval on ascending stalks, but mostly absent as seeds rarely mature.


Native to southeastern Europe and western Asia, horseradish was introduced as garden crop, well known for the pungent sauce made from its root. Now escaped into the natural environment, in Minnesota it is increasingly common along grassy road rights-of-way throughout the state, though likely is under-reported. When not in flower the basal leaves may resemble one of the docks, but otherwise it is not likely to be confused with other species having 4-petaled white flowers.

HUNTER-GATHERING: wild & fresh food

Wild Horseradish: Secret spot, Sussex.

Apologies for the lack of update round these parts, but to be quite honest with you, its been a glorious summer- I have been practically living in the woods running courses at HGC HQ…mind you, I would much rather spend my time out in the wild enjoying it than sat in front of a computer- I think many of you will concur!

So, 7 years. 7 Years I’ve been inanely scribbling away about wild foods on this here blog and not once truly covered one of the greatest additions to the wild larder that has ever graced our soil. Horseradish.

Introduced to Britain pre-1500AD, over the years, horseradish has won over the natives of our angry island primarily as an accompaniment to beef. It seems only fitting that this fiery plant has become such a hallmark of British culinary tradition, because…and lets face it, we are a bunch of introvert, angry, whinging folk- we’re just very good at keeping our thoughts to ourselves!

Quite often I will order a roast in a country pub just so I can enjoy a bit o’radish with a Yorkshire pud. Coleman’s hot stuff is fine with me, something of the Tabasco addict coming through. What’s disappointing is when a pub tries to make there own and royally screw it up. Is it that difficult, really?

Horseradish is split into two catagories: Cultivated and Wild. Some of you may remember that delightful love story called ‘the wild gourmets?’ In the book following the series, the rather dishy Thomasina Miers is pictured fondling a rather straight, firm root which is labeled as ‘wild horseradish’- absolutely not. It was in fact cultivated horseradish that was pictured (the TV ‘fluffing’ not quite carrying over into book form) which looks like a fat parsnip and doesn’t contain the same heat as it’s warped, wildling of a cousin.

The twisted ‘Donkey ear’ like leaves of Wild horseradish.

Wild Horseradish is incredibly common and at this time of year the large, curled ‘donkey ear’ leaves can be easily distinguished from dock on most roadsides and country lanes- that said, you must have permission from the land owner to uproot any wild plant, but given that wild horseradish is more invasive than the Nazis and almost as difficult to get rid of, it probably wouldn’t be missed (but seriously- do get permission).

Roots Manuva.

A good little tip for storing horseradish root once dug up- keep it in a bucket of soil or sand and give it an occasional glug of water- don’t leave too long or it will start sprouting!

Wild horseradish’s difference in appearance to the cultivated variety is awesome: Twisted, knarled roots that zigzag their way into the earth making them a bastard to uproot, but best of all, being the precursor to the cultivar- they are proper fierce. Like, real dangerous. The danger can be found in the high levels of a volatile oil contained in the root called sinigrin, which in itself sounds like Dickensian villain.

Sinigrin is released when the root is tampered with, most violently when it’s grated, not many things enjoy this process I’m sure, but Wild horseradish really lets you know it’s not happy to the point that it’ll make your head bleed. Of course this is all over embellishment somewhat- in the same way mustard gets up your nose, when sinigrin is broken down via cutting or grating it will produce allyl isothiocyanate (mustard oil) which can seriously irritate the sinuses, eyes and mucous membranes. Bear in mind that with in a couple of hours of grating, the volatile oils that make wild hoseradish what it is will evaporate and become bitter and not quite as punchy. And you thought onions where a bitch…

Grated wild Horseradish: Stings the nostrils…

As part of our bushtucker trials on stag do’s at HGC, horseradish takes pride of place after deer testicles. Strange, you may think- after all, what could be worse than a bollock exploding in the mouth? You obviously haven’t tried chewing a chunk of wild horseradish for 2 minutes. We’ve seen grown men cry and even vomit. Danger, danger.

The second plant we are going to look at was introduced to me by Mark Williams of Galloway Wild foods: Arsesmart (Persicaria Hydropiper- what a cool name) or Water Pepper. Historically in the UK, this plant hasn’t been used to its full culinary merit, instead it was mixed in with straw or hay bedding as a flea repellent, on occasion a leaf or two might have found its way into a nook or cranny of the sleeping occupant and the residual heat would cause a ‘smarting’ or burning sensation, hence Arsesmart.

Arsesmart or Persicaria Hydropiper: Likes damp places…

Now Arsesmart is really common, most damp places or riversides will often be lined with the stuff, it is something that is really easy to identify: the leaves are long and pointed- similar to willow and the alternate leaves are marked on the main stem by a pinkish/red collar.

Arsesmart is certainly the closest you can get to a wild chilli in the UK, it would appear that despite having several active ingredients, the heat comes from waburganal and rutin producing a pungent taste and slight bitterness- rutin is a bioflavinoid that is good for circulation- so despite the fierce heat, its actually good for you. Japan seems to be one of the few countries that employ this plant in the kitchen serving alongside sashimi and Kobe beef.

On first taste, not a lot happens, a couple of revolutions of the mouth and a searing heat spreads across the tongue, making it almost unpalatable- ride it out if you can! Here at Hunter Gather Cook we like to show you how to use these plants as everyday ingredients, so with a bit of nip and tuck, here are two ways to transform these spicy freaks of nature into something quite tasty.

Wild horseradish sauce.

This is a mainstay in most of our courses that involve Deer- the perfect accompaniment to a venison burger or even to go with a hefty chunk of pan-fried backstrap.

  • 2 TBSP of Grated wild horseradish
  • 4 TBSP of Crème fraiche
  • 1 tsp of English Mustard (or Dijon if you’re French and a bit of a wuss).
  • 1 TBSP White wine vinegar
  • Salt & Pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix well and season to taste. Serve!

HGC’s Venison Carpaccio with Wild horseradish & Sorrel.

Wild Wasabi:

Trditionally made with the green root of Wasabia Japonica also known as Japanese horseradish, in this case

I took the liberty of popping down the road to Seaford heads to obtain some of the freshest mackeral out of the sea for this recipe. The blowtorch just happened to be lying around…sears a fillet to perfction in less than a minute!

  • 1 TBSP of Grated horseradish
  • 1 TBSP of finely Chopped Arsesmart
  • A pinch of Salt
  • Drizzle of olive oil

Place all ingredients in a pestle & mortar and pound vigorously until combined.

Other stuff.

The Hunter Gather Cook team had an epic 4 days at Wilderness Festival at Cornbury park a couple of weeks back. We had over 150 people in 3 days for Deer Butchery & Foraging workshops followed by wild cocktails and canapés in our woodland lounge. Thanks to all of those who attended and we hope we have released a new breed of Hunter-Gatherers into the wild! Look forward to next year’s Festival where HGC will be going BIG! Check out the photo album from the Festival on our Facebook page.

We have a few places left on the remainder of 2013’s courses, our ‘Fish, Forage & Feast’ on the 28th September at Chalk Springs will be a belter of a day as well as my birthday- so come celebrate with us!

Also our epic Autumn ‘Fungal Foray & Feast’ is almost sold out with a couple of spaces remaining on the second date: Sunday 20th October.

…to the TREES!

Venison Berbere Skewers- Wilderness Festival 2013.

Grow horseradish from crowns or root cuttings planted four to six weeks before the average date of the last frost for your area. Horseradish is a hardy perennial best grown as an annual. Keep horseradish from spreading in the garden by growing it in a container.

Description. Horseradish is a hardy perennial grown for its pungent roots which are long and narrow, sometimes to two-feet long. Grow horseradish as an annual, in the second year the roots can become tough and fibrous. Horseradish is best grown in containers; it spreads readily and can easily grow out of control. Horseradish will be ready for harvest 140 to 160 days after planting.

Yield. Allow 1 plant per household

Prepare the soil to a depth of 10 to 12 inches and remove stones and lumps that might cause the roots to split.

Planting Horseradish

Site. Plant horseradish in full sun; it will tolerate partial shade. Grow horseradish in rich well-drained soil. Prepare the soil to a depth of 10 to 12 inches and remove stones and lumps that might cause the roots to split. Add sand and compost to the planting bed to keep the soil loose. Horseradish prefers a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.8.

Planting time. Horseradish is cold-hardy plant. Set out crowns or root cuttings 4 to 6 weeks before the average last frost date in your region. Horseradish grows best in cool, moist regions where the temperature stays between 45°F and 75°F

Planting and spacing. Set crowns just at soil level. Plant roots in shallow trenches 3 to 4 inches deep and cover with 2 to 3 inches of soil. Slice root cuttings at a 30° angle or plant with the narrow end down; fill the trench until the wide end of the root is just covered. Space roots 24 to 36 inches apart. Horseradish planted in the garden should be contained with wooden, metal, or masonry borders set at least 24 inches deep around the bed.

Companion plants. Potatoes, yams

Container growing. Choose a container that will allow horseradish roots to grow 24 to 30 inches deep.

Avoid leaving pieces of the root in the ground after harvest, they will produce a new plant the next year.

Horseradish Care

Water and feeding. Keep the soil evenly moist to prevent roots from drying and turning woody. Fertilize horseradish by adding organic compost to the planting bed every month.

Care. To grow a large taproot root use a spade to slice down around the plant 3 to 4 inches from the base pruning away side roots. Avoid leaving pieces of the root in the ground after harvest, they will produce a new plant the next year.

Pests. Horseradish has no serious pest problems.

Diseases. Horseradish has no serious disease problems

Horseradish roots

Harvesting and Storing Horseradish

Harvest. Cut sections of root for use as needed after leaves are about 12 inches long (roots will then be 3 to 4 inches in diameter). Horseradish makes its best growth in late summer and fall, so delay harvesting until mid-autumn or later. Harvest all root before the ground freezes otherwise new plants will spring up the following year.

Storing and preserving. Grated horseradish can be kept in a glass jar in the refrigerator for one to two weeks. Whole roots can be packed in damp sawdust and kept for up to 10 months. To freeze horseradish, grate the roots and mix with vinegar and water.

Varieties. Horseradish is non-varietal.

Common name. Horseradish

Botanical name. Armoracia rusticana

Origin. Eastern Europe


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *