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Botanical name: Armoracia rusticana



The home of horseradish is taken to be Eastern and Southern Europe, Southern Russia and the Ukraine. It is presumed to have been cultivated in antiquity. In Middle Europe, including Germany, it has been known as an officinal and aromatic plant since the 12th century.

Today, horseradish is common in almost all temperate zones worldwide and is usually cultivated on a small scale. Austria and some Eastern European countries are among the chief growing areas.

The German market is supplied for the most part by domestic produce, above all from Thüringen, Upper Franconia and the Spreewald.


Horseradish roots are frost-resistant and are harvested in late autumn, after the leaves of the plant have died. Thus it is in greatest supply from October to April, but thanks to good storage, it is available throughout the year.

The dried roots are sold as powder or flakes. In addition, varied preparations of the grated root can be bought in jars, and marinated roots are sold.

Appearance, taste, characteristics

Horseradish is a hardy herbaceous plant up to 150 m tall and belongs botanically to the family of crucifers. It does not reach its full height in the first year of growth, but it is usually harvested at 1 year.

The leaves of the horseradish are slightly undulated, oblong to oval in shape and grow on long stalks. In the second year, branchlike stems with slender, oblong leaves and wide white blossoms form on the upper part of the plant.

It is mainly the 2- to 6-cm thick fleshy, 20- to 60-cm long tap root of the horseradish that is used. This is shaped like a spindle or a roller, may have several heads, and has a yellow-brownish, usually weakly ringed, rough cortex.

The edible inside of the root is white and fleshy, but it becomes woody as the plant gets older. As soon as the horseradish root is cut, a very pungent, mustard-like odour is noticeable, which makes the eyes begin to tear. The taste is also bitingly sharp. The leaves smell similar to the root when they are rubbed, but their taste is much milder.


The sharp taste and the penetrating smell of horseradish are due to the sulphurous mustard oils it contains. The root contains 0.2–0.6% glucosinolates, composed mainly of singrin and gluconasturtiin.

Similar to garlic, when the root tissue is destroyed a process is activated by which odorous substances are formed. For instance, an enzyme transforms singrin, forming the pungent-smelling and sharp-tasting allyl isothiocyanate. There are hardly any glucosinolates in the leaves.

In addition, horseradish contains flavonoids and vitamin C. On average, 100 g contain:

Horseradish , fresh
Energie (kcal)
Wasser (g)
Eiweiß (g)
Fett (g)
Kohlenhydrate (g)
Ballaststoffe (g)
Retinoläquivalent (µg)
Vitamin B1 (µg)
Vitamin B2 (µg)
Vitamin B6 (µg)
Niacin (mg)
Vitamin C (mg)
Natrium (mg)
Kalium (g)
Magnesium (mg)
Calcium (mg)
Phosphor (mg)
Eisen (mg)

Harmful substances

Large amounts of horseradish can irritate the mucous membranes in children and sensitive persons. Thus, people with stomach and intestinal ulcers or kidney disorders would do better to forego horseradish if they have problems with digestion. Likewise, it can irritate the skin in case of intensive contact.

Quality criteria, optimal storage conditions

Horseradish roots should be clean and undamaged. The leaves should be cut off just above the root collar; several root crowns reduce the quality.

Horseradish roots stay fresh longer if they are packed in plastic foil and stored at -2°C and high humidity. Roots that have been harvested late can be kept this way for up to 2 years.

Roots that have been harvested too early or stored at a temperature above 0°C quickly lose their pungency and flavour and frequently become bitter after some time. Wrapped in cling film, horseradish can be kept in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator for 3 weeks or longer.

Horseradish dries out easily; for this reason it used to be covered with moist sand and either buried outdoors or stored in the root cellar. This kept it fresh, from the harvest until the spring. Slightly dried roots can be freshened up by laying them in cold water for several hours. However, they will then not keep as long as unwashed roots.

Presumed effect on health

With its pungent flavour, horseradish stimulates the production of gastric juices and is held to be orexigenic and to promote digestion.

The irritating effect that grated horseradish has on skin can be used to improve the circulation of blood in the skin and mucous membranes. In folk medicine, horseradish is recommended for asthma, catarrh, gout and rheumatic disorders. It is also supposed to be of help in the treatment of urinary tract infections.

Horseradish is used topically for light muscle pains. In addition, extracts from the root have an antimicrobial effect.

Before it is used medicinally, however, stomach and intestinal ulcers and kidney disease should be ruled out.

Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation

Not only the roots, but also the fresh, young leaves of the horseradish plant can be used as a seasoning. They can be added to salads, pickled cucumbers and tomatoes.

The roots are sold fresh, dried and in jars or tubes as a finished product. Dried products in the form of flakes, or coarsely ground or powdered, unfortunately have very little aroma. They must be soaked in lukewarm water prior to use.

Fresh roots are peeled prior to use and usually grated; the volatile mustard oils then bring tears to the eyes. Therefore, it is best to chop the root with a food processor. Some lemon juice or vinegar should then be added to the mass to keep it from turning brown.

Horseradish is a popular condiment with meat dishes, especially brisket of beef, roast beef, cold roast, mutton, game and tongue. It is a good accompaniment to smoked fish, such as salmon and trout, but also to other fish dishes. It is used plain or in savoury sauces, rémoulade or dips. Its pungency can be reduced by adding cream, yoghurt, sour cream, curd cheese, meat broth or grated apple and pear.

Horseradish also goes well with curd cheese, cream cheese and mayonnaise, and it enhances green salads, hard-boiled eggs, cold cuts and sausages. Tomatoes, poultry and potato salad taste good with horseradish, and together with mustard and butter it is a good addition to carrots and corn on the cob.

The Austrians like Apelkren, a mixture of grated horseradish, apple and lemon juice.

Horseradish is more important in the food industry as a prepared than as a raw product. It is sold as "table-ready" horseradish and, in addition to vinegar and citric acid, frequently contains salt, sugar, seasonings and cream. Mustard, mustard pickles and other sour tinned products are prepared with horseradish.

Seasoning tip

Horseradish combines well with garlic, chives, onions, bay leaf, mint and cloves. It also goes well with dill, vinegar, capers, celeriac and mustard.

Unfortunately, when it is heated for a long time a great deal of its aroma is lost.


The German name of the plant (Meerrettich) does not stem from the word Meer for sea, but probably from the word Mähre, meaning mare. This would explain the English name horseradish. It was earlier the custom to differentiate less palatable plants from others by placing the name of an animal in front of the name of the plant. Thus the extremely pungent tasting 'horseradish' was set apart from the 'true radish'. Another example of this is the horse chestnut as opposed to the sweet chestnut, or marron.





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