More condiment than spice or herb, horseradish is easy to grow;it has adapted well to the West from its native southeasternEurope. In the garden, this perennial forms a large clump of long,narrow, ragged-edged green leaves that feel like chard. It doesbest in rich, moist soil in cool regions. You peel and grate itswhite roots to make the spicy-hot sauce described below.
WHERE IT GROWS: All zones except the low desert (zone13).
PLANTING, CARE: Plant the fleshy roots in the ground 2 to 3feet apart, or in a horseradish container like the one picturedbelow. Either way, horseradish that’s rooted in spring will beready to harvest after you cut the tops off in fall; it yieldsabout 1 pound of roots per plant. Unless your soil is poor,horseradish needs no fertilizing, since nitrogen encourages forkedroots. Horseradish does need regular water; grown drier, itproduces smaller, more pungent roots.
HARVESTING: For horseradish in the ground, you can harvesteither the lateral roots, leaving the center taproot to renew theplant, or harvest the main taproot itself.
If you’re going to try the second method, carefully remove thesoil from around the top two-thirds of the root when the plant is afoot tall. Nip off the lateral roots you’ve exposed, then gentlyrepack the soil around the taproot. Repeat the process six weekslater. This directs the plant’s energy into the main taproot,allowing it to grow fat for fall harvest; it’s far easier to peeland prepare one large root than several small ones. After you’vedug the taproot, replant one of the lateral roots growing off thebottom of the taproot to make next year’s plant. Don’t leave otherbits of root in the soil, since they too will grow new plants andyou’ll have a hard-to-harvest colony instead of a single plant.
BEST VARIETIES: There are few named varieties ofhorseradish.
HORSERADISH SAUCE: Put 1 1/2 cups peeled and dicedhorseradish root in a food processor. Whirl it with 1 small peeled,diced turnip, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon sugar; slowly pourin 1 cup white vinegar. Yield: 3 cups prepared horseradish, whichkeeps about three months in the refrigerator.