|This is what horseradish should look, without the rocks!|
Growing Horseradish in the Ozarks
When I moved to the Ozarks 30 years ago, horseradish was one of the first 20 herbs I planted in a raised bed at the edge of my garden. During the third winter of the plants’ growth, I decided to dig and process some roots.
My grandmother had always told me the job she hated most as a little girl was when her mother ground horseradish in the fall of the year. She said they always had to do the job outdoors because of the fumes and her eyes and nose would burn for hours, so I was curious about the process.
I dug into my big clump of horseradish with my potato fork and out came some several foot-long, contorted, wrist-diameter roots. I was surprised at how gnarled and twisted they were. My grandmother had told me all I needed to do was scrub the roots free of soil, peel, cut up and grind them. But my horseradish had grown around the rocks in my soil, so the process wasn’t going to be so easy.
My garden soil, before I began amending it, was just red clay with lots of rocks - rocks from the size of grapes to grapefruits. The horseradish had simply grown around several of the smaller rocks, so I had to first scrub, then peel, then cut the roots into pieces to extract the stones.
Grandma had used a hand-cranked meat grinder, but I chose a food processor. I simply added a bit of vinegar to a handful of cutup roots and within seconds, I had horseradish. Doing it so quickly, and covered in a food processor, the fumes weren’t a problem and I soon had several pint jars for the freezer. (Leave out the vinegar if you want a stronger, hotter horseradish).
Over the years I’ve made a better soil bed for my horseradish, with richer soil and free of most rocks. I add some compost every year along with a hearty application of bone meal, then divide the roots about every second year, replanting some and harvesting the rest.
I occasionally gather a few larger leaves in summer and wrap one or two around pork steak, with some mustard and salt and pepper and bake them. I read a few years back there were cautions in using horseradish leaves, but in looking on the Web, I find no cautions listed and I’ve enjoyed the mild horseradish flavor in the baked pork.
Harlequin beetles are the only pest I have on my horseradish and those can usually be picked off by hand. Or a mixture of water, cooking oil and baking soda, added to a sprayer with more water, will usually get them.
I like the more pungent flavor of my own ground horseradish and take out a small jar from the freezer whenever I need a new supply.
Jim Long writes for The Herb Companion and Heirloom Garden magazines. His garden blog chronicles his weekly garden adventures: jimlongsgarden.blogspot.com and his herb books can be seen on his website: www.LongCreekHerbs.com.