Can you take the heat?
Horseradish is planted approximately 4-6 inches deep. It prefers full sun but will grow in partial shade. A soil pH of 5.5-7 is best. Planted in the spring, it can be harvested in the fall. For the most pungent flavor, it is advised to wait until after the leaves have seen frost. One plant will produce about 1 pound of root, needing no fertilizer (if planted in compost) and occasional water. You can harvest either the tap (main) root or the lateral roots, but one-year old plants supposedly have the best flavor, so replant a portion after your harvest.
The notion to plant horseradish has been bumping around in my brain for the last several seasons. When husband and I were first together, his dad gave me a mammoth horseradish root from his yard, with the stern warning never, ever to plant horseradish because you will never get rid of it. Hmm. Sounds like a challenge. I looked up several methods of processing the root to make prepared horseradish and set about grating it. The root pulled from the ground is fairly neutral, no odor, no tang. It is only when the root is ground and the cells pulverized that it releases it’s isothiocyanates and you are really in trouble. Every recipe I found warned against inhaling the vapors of freshly ground horseradish. Did I listen? No, of course not. I stuck my head right over the blender full of freshly ground root and was instantaneously very very sorry. I think I went blind for a little bit, and what felt like very strong acid made it’s way slowly up my sinus cavity and into my brain. Wow. Strong stuff. Adding vinegar stops the release of the offending volatile oil, so you add it right away if you won’t be using the horseradish to strip paint, or you wait awhile to add it if you want your future cocktail sauce to make people faint. I waited awhile cause I luv me some horseradish. When it makes you double over and clutch your head, its perfect. That batch got eaten pretty quickly and I’ve never had homemade again, just the stuff from stores which is quite tame by comparison. So I’ll try my luck at growing it.
I’m still debating whether to plant this legendarily aggressive plant in a contained space or perhaps to throw caution to the wind and plant it unfettered directly in the garden. I see myself battling horseradish in the lawn in years to come. I will keep you posted.
Said the Delphi Oracle to Apollo, "Radishes are worth their weight in lead, beets their weight in silver, but horseradish is worth it’s weight in gold" (possibly because they used it as an aphrodisiac). So any stories of triumphant horseradish cultivation out there?