Horseradish is an overlooked herb, but one which can be grown easily in pots or the ground and used in a variety of ways.
The best way to grow horseradish is from roots called thongs, these will then grow to become invasive, so growing in pots is ideal. Harvesting is easy and you will be able to split the roots in Autumn, leaving these hardy perennials to keep growing. There are a few possible pitfalls but horseradish is very satisfying to grow at home in the UK.
The other point to note is that homegrown horseradish is so much stronger in flavor and you will find a little goes a long way!
How To Plant Horseradish
- You can grow from seeds or more popular and far easier is to buy the thongs from Specialist Nurseries. These are available to plant out in Early Spring, although you will be able to pre-order from many online nurseries and this will ensure you get them delivered in time.
- The thongs of horseradish are root sections that look a lot like parsnips in color and shape, but they are smaller and ready to plant.
- Horseradish will thrive in any garden and spread to produce large leaves which make excellent ground cover. However do not be tempted to plant into the ground as those fabulous roots will invade your entire garden. Instead choose a large, deep pot. The pot should be no smaller than 30cm.
- Prepare the pot for good drainage and use a peat free multi-purpose compost. Horseradish will grow well in normal garden soil, so don’t spend too much on getting expensive composts.
- Use a dibber to make long vertical holes. Then drop the horseradish thongs into each hole.
- Cover the tops of the horseradish thongs with no less than 2 inches of soil.
- Horseradish likes a partially shaded spot but will do well in the first few months with full sunshine too.
- Water well and you will see shoots develop over the next few months. Horseradish is not too picky about conditions but water during drier months to encourage the roots to engorge. This is the part we will be harvesting and eating.
Top Tip- Even though this is one of the easier herbs to grow, don’t be tempted to get the kids too involved. Horseradish contains mustard oil and it can be almost painful to younger taste buds, causing a burning sensation.
Growing and Harvesting Horseradish
The growing part is very straight forward once you have it all planted out. It is a hardy perennial and so will benefit from a little light watering during the warmer, drier months. However it forms masses of foliage that will give you a very good early warning if more watering is needed as it sort of fades back a bit and droops.
We give ours a light liquid feed in the form of nitrogen rich borage tea, maybe once or twice a month in the Summer. Then cut back any foliage that is really struggling and a light prune to just freshen it up a bit.
In Autumn and hopefully after the first frost the leaves will die back naturally. This is a good indication that harvest has arrived. Horseradish really benefits from a good harsh frost. The flavor in the root will intensify and produce that strength that we all love.
Turn out the pot and take off the roots that you want to harvest. Due to it’s incredibly pervasive nature the roots will thank you for being cut back to at least half. With the roots you want to retain repot with fresh soil. We have never had a problem with overwintering and you will find that fresh foliage returns in the Spring. This is why it works out to be very cost effective to grow your own horseradish. Once you have your horseradish thongs, you will be growing and harvesting forever.
Horseradish is best eaten fresh and simply prepared by grating and adding to a coleslaw, salad or a sauce using white wine vinegar. However it will only really stay fresh for around three- four weeks from harvesting. So we dry ours out as well.
To dry horseradish you will need to wash it and grate it first. Then lay each strand out and add to your dehydrator. Store in airtight containers and it will last for months. Add to stews, casseroles or even to white wine vinegar and water to make up a sauce again.
Possible Health Reasons To Eat Horseradish
There are possible health benefits of taking horseradish as an alternative medicine. People do use it for the following ailments;
- Sciatic nerve pain
- Achy joints and muscles
- Gallbladder disorders
- Fluid retention
- Infections of the bladder, kidneys or urethra
- Infections of the airways.
As ever consult a medical professional before turning to alternative medicines and check out this great article on WebMD for more!
We think growing horseradish is pretty easy and a great beginners herb to get into. The plant is not prone to many pests and will remain happy in the pot as long as you harvest the roots each year. Although technically speaking horseradish is actually a spice, albeit and very unusual one to grow at home.
I am a big fan of giving gifts to family and a few jars of horseradish sauce go a long way as freshly grown and harvested roots are stronger in flavor than shop bought!
To keep the harvested roots fresh, you can store in a cool dark place with wooden boxes and straw around the tubers. This is not too dissimilar to the way you would store apples through winter. Then just before Christmas you can wash and shred them to make the hottest horseradish sauce for gifts.