This plant has been in cultivation from the earliest times, but its exact place of origin seems to be obscure. Some consider it is possibly a cultivated form of Cochlearia macrocarpa, a native of Hungary; other authorities consider it indigenous to the eastern parts of Europe, from the Caspian and through Russia and Poland to Finland. In Britain and other parts of Europe from Sicily northwards, it occurs cultivated, or semi-wild as a garden escape. The plant is propagated by root division and once a few cuttings are planted, they grow quickly and spread over a large area. The horseradish plant reproduces in abundance and multiplies year after year.
What to look for:
Large clumps of leaves springing from the ground. Leaves are a bit hairy and the blade is attached to a fairly long stalk (maybe 6″ or so). The leaf grows another foot or more from this. Not comfortable to handle because the hairs are a bit spikey The individual flowers are fairly inconspicuous – very small and white but carried on another long spike well above the main plant, several dozen of them to each spike. The root is brown – looks rather like ginger root. It is a pungent perennial herb, with long, fleshy roots, large rough leaves and a particle of white flowers with four petals. Horseradish is a perennial root crop indigenous to western regions of Asia and the southeastern parts of Europe. Sometimes, this plant is found growing naturally, but usually the herb is cultivated in different regions across the globe. The plant has an extended, white colored tuberous root that gives rise to a stem that is two to three feet in height. The stem of the plant appears in the second year of its existence.
How Mother nature loves it:
To grow fine Horseradish roots a plot of tilled ground must be chosen, manure being placed 18 to 24 inches deep; the ground in which they are planted ought to be very rich, or they will not thrive.
In order to obtain good sticks for winter an early start must be made, and some time in January the ground should be deeply dug. Planting is carried out in February by means of root cuttings, straight, young roots, 8 or 9 inches long, and about 1/2 inch wide being chosen, each having a crown or growing point. Make deep holes with the dibber, 12 to 15 inches deep and 12 to 18 inches apart each way; carefully divest the sets of all side roots and drop each in a hole, trickling a little fine soil round them before filling up the holes firmly. Beyond hoeing to keep the soil clear of weeds, no further care is needed. It is necessary every few years to replant the bed, otherwise the crop deteriorates. The plants will stand through two seasons without deterioration. They may either be replanted elsewhere or another bed made on the same site, just as may be expedient. When it is desired to destroy plantations of Horseradish, it is absolutely necessary to rid the soil of even the smallest particle of root: if this is not done, much annoyance will be caused the following summer.
How to use it:
The root is the only part now used, and in the fresh state only. It is nearly cylindrical, except at the crown, where it is somewhat enlarged. Stimulant, aperient, rubefacient, diuretic and antiseptic. It is a powerful stimulant, whether applied internally or externally as a rubefacient, and has aperient and antiseptic properties. Taken with oily fish or rich meat, either by itself or steeped in vinegar, or in a plain sauce, it acts as an excellent stimulant to the digestive organs, and as a spur to complete digestion.
Cooks use the terms “horseradish” or “prepared horseradish” to refer to the grated root of the horseradish plant mixed with vinegar. Prepared horseradish is white to creamy-beige in color. It will keep for months refrigerated but eventually will start to darken, indicating it is losing flavor and should be replaced. The leaves of the plant, which while edible are not commonly eaten, are referred to as “horseradish greens”. Although technically a root, horseradish is generally treated as a condiment or ingredient.