Friday, July 20, 2007

HORSERADISH: The pungent bite of horseradish also holds promise as a rheumatoid arthritis remedy.

Years ago my grandmother told me stories about grinding horseradish. "I used to dread that job," she said. "My mother always put up lots of horseradish, and it was an all day job that burned our eyes." She described how her father would dig and wash the big roots, then she, her sisters, and her mother would peel them, cutting them all up into chunks.

"Then we would carry the entire project outside. Daddy had already attached the food grinder to a table. We girls would take turns feeding the horseradish chunks into the grinder, turning the handle to pulverize the roots. Tears would run down our eyes from the plant's oils as they were released into the air. When one person could no longer stand the burning and crying, someone else would take over and grind. It was an awful job, made only slightly better because it only came once a year."

Horseradish is a native of southwestern Europe and a member of the mustard family. Although horseradish is traditionally a meat condiment, it has many more uses. It lends a delightful flavor to salad dressings, sandwiches, cheese dishes, and more. Most people associate only the roots with the hot flavor, but the smaller, more tender leaves are a nice addition to salads, sauces, and are useful as a seasoning herb. The chopped leaves are subtler in flavor and, when used sparingly, add a nice background nip to vegetable dips. The larger leaves make a perfect garnish on which to arrange sandwiches and hors d'oeuvres for an elegant presentation.

Horseradish also is useful medicinally. In folk medicine, the roots were used as a poultice for rheumatism. And a bite of horseradish sauce has always been a traditional way of opening the sinuses in much the same way as hot mustard.

The nature of horseradish

The roots of the plant are the source for the "prepared horseradish" that we buy in the store. "Prepared" simply means it already has been ground to a pulp with vinegar. Prepared horseradish has a good flavor, and often has little "kick." I like the herb's full bite and hotness, so I began planting and making my own freshly-ground horseradish several years ago. It's a tough perennial plant and grows easily in any average garden soil. Deep, fertile, evenly moist soil in full sun will produce roots four or five inches in diameter and 24 to 36 inches long. However, the plant will thrive anywhere. In my own herb garden, I planted it in a spot that is mostly clay and rock; even in that poor location it produces more large roots than I can use.

Horseradish can become invasive if not harvested and used regularly. I allow my plants to spread to about 24 inches wide and use them as a part of the garden landscape. The leaves get eight to 10 inches wide and 15 to 18 inches long, are a vivid green, and make a pleasant background for my other herbs. The roots should be harvested during the plant's dormancy-any time leaves are not present. Because the roots are rough and often curled, they should be washed well, then peeled.

If you want to grow horseradish and are concerned about controlling the spread of the plant's roots, it would be best to plant the horseradish in a part of the lawn or garden where you can easily till or mow around it. A barrier may help, but because the root grows up to three feet deep, it will not always be foolproof.


Minced horseradish plants are being used experimentally to clean up phenols-water and soil pollutants produced by a variety of industries.

Pulverized horseradish plants can help neutralize pollution when added to contaminated water or soil by a process that causes the phenols to bond with other chemicals (or in the soil, by bonding to humus), which are then washed out and easily removed.

In the journal Biotechnology and Bioengineering, a paper published last year states that the process represents a major improvement over other organic solutions. The process neutralizes up to 100 percent of the phenols from tainted water in 30 minutes, and the horseradish material can be reused.

According to the author, Jerzy Dec, a research associate at Penn State University for Bioremediation and Detoxification, horseradish retained 100 percent of its neutralizing effect after being reused 15 times. Because the plant is inexpensive, easily grown, and plentiful, there is a lot of excitement about the usefulness of horseradish as an enviromental cleanup tool.

Processing your own horseradish

Unlike the experience my grandmother had of slowly grinding the eye-stinging roots outside, a food processor effortlessly grinds everything to a pulp in seconds, making the job easy.

Put in enough chunks of root, about the size of golf balls, to half-fill the processor bowl. Pulse-grind a few times until a coarse pulp is formed. Next, pour in about a cup of cider vinegar and add a few more chunks of root. Turn the processor on full grind and process for 30 seconds to a minute. Pour the pulp into a bowl and repeat with the remaining roots. Drain the excess vinegar and use it for the following batches, until all root pieces are ground.

When you make horseradish, put it up in small plastic freezer containers. Pour back some of the vinegar over the horseradish, and press it all down in the container and put on the lid. Preserved this way, horseradish will keep in the freezer for a year or more.

Horseradish & Tofu Sandwich

These sandwiches are best eaten immediately after assembly. If you're packing a lunch for later, keep the tomato and tofu slices in a separate container.

1/4 cup plain nonfat yogurt
1-1/2 teaspoons freshly grated horseradish (or 1 tablespoon bottled horseradish)
Small dash cayenne pepper
8 slices whole grain bread
1 10.5-ounce package lite silken extra-firm tofu, thinly sliced
1 large tomato, thinly sliced
1 cup alfalfa or radish sprouts

In a small bowl mix together yogurt, horseradish, and cayenne; spread on bread slices. On four slices of bread, layer tofu, tomato slices, and sprouts. Top with remaining bread slices.

Makes 4 sandwiches.

L PER SANDWICH: 189 CAL(13 PERCENT FROM FAT), 12g PROT, 3g FAT, 29g CARB, 309mg SOD, 0mg CHOL, 4g FIBER.

Horseradish Salad Dressing

This thick dressing is delicious on green salads, as a sandwich spread, or as a condiment for other dishes.

1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
2 red radishes, trimmed, halved
1-1/2 teaspoons freshly grated horseradish (or 1 tablespoon bottled horseradish)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Combine all ingredients in blender or food processor and process until smooth. Refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour for flavors to meld. If dressing is too thick, thin with a bit of apple or pineapple juice. Stir before serving.

Makes about 1 cup.

V PER TABLESPOON: 11 CAL(68 PERCENT FROM FAT), 0.1g PROT, 0.8g FAT, 0.7g CARB, 2mg SOD, 0mg CHOL, 0.3g FIBER.

No comments: