Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Herbs

All About Horseradish

by National Gardening Association Editors

Horseradish is a perennial root crop, planted from tuberous roots rather than seeds. Once you plant a few cuttings, they take hold quickly, spreading and multiplying year after year. The plants reproduce abundantly, so plant only three to six roots at first. This should be enough for a household of four horseradish lovers. Also, be sure to plant the roots in an area that's away from the rest of your garden, so you don't have a horseradish takeover.

Growing Horseradish

To cultivate horseradish, get some root cuttings from a garden center, a seed company or a neighbor who already has some growing. These straight, thin roots are really just pieces cut from a larger root that has been harvested to eat. If you buy them, they'll be cut at a slant on one end, and that end should be planted downward. If a neighbor or friend gives you some, have them slant the end that was not attached to the stem, so you won't plant the root upside down.

Plant horseradish in the early spring, at the same time you plant your first cool-season crops. Prepare the soil just as you do for your other vegetables, tilling or spading the area to a depth of six to eight inches.

Dig a hole or furrow four to six inches deep and put a handful of 10-10-10 or 5-10-10 fertilizer or a shovelful of compost at the bottom. Cover this with two inches of soil.

Lay the roots, slanted end pointed down, in the soil at a 45-degree angle rather than straight up and down. This way, the new roots that form along the entire length of each cutting can grow straight down themselves without becoming tangled up in one another. The top of the cutting should be about two inches below the soil surface.

Cover the top of the root with two inches of soil, and it should soon be growing like crazy. Keep the seedbed free of weeds, cultivating the soil regularly.

Horseradish plants produce lush, tall foliage that's quite pleasing to look at. You can use horseradish beds as natural borders, or even as a screen around an unsightly compost heap. Just remember, once you plant it, it's there forever.

Harvesting Horseradish

If you're starting a new bed, wait until the next spring to harvest your first horseradish. Even with an established bed, spring is the best time to harvest -- that's when the horseradish is hottest. You can dig up some roots in the fall and store them just as you would carrots or beets, or you can store horseradish right out in the garden (year-round if you like), digging up a root anytime you're in the mood to have some fresh.

Homemade horseradish is wonderful with hot or cold roast beef, or in cole slaw, salad dressings and dips.

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