How to Grow and Store Horseradish
Try our tips for planting, harvesting and storing pungent horseradish root.
By Lynn Coulter | Photos By Katie Alaimo
You can grow horseradish in a kitchen garden, says commercial horseradish grower Barry McMillin, who occasionally hears from gardeners who want a couple of plants to “mess around with in the yard.”
Planting and Growing Horseradish
Plant horseradish root pieces, called “sets,” in the fall or early spring. Look for sets that are about as big around as your finger and 12” to 18” long.
Place the sets horizontally in deeply tilled soil, with the large end slightly higher than the small end, and cover them 6” to 8” deep. You’ll wind up with a ridge one to two feet across.
After the leaves sprout, fertilize the plants with well-rotted compost or 10-10-10.
The growing plants will form crowns with multiple shoots above ground. Meanwhile, under the soil, the original set will increase in diameter and form side roots. For best results, you’ll want to encourage the original set to grow as large as possible, so you’ll need to “sucker” or “lift” the plants.
To “sucker” the horseradish, remove all but one or two leaf shoots at the head, or big end, of the original set.
To “lift” the plants, use a hoe to dig into the ridge and gently raise the crown end of the original set. Your goal is to break the roots at the crown, so roots form at the tail end instead. Do this early in the growing season and again halfway through.
No matter which method you use, the original set should now grow into a one to two pound root by harvest time.
Harvesting and Storing Horseradish
Once a freeze kills the leaves, you can start harvesting. Dig up the original root and as many of the secondary roots as desired. Save some to replant next year.
Wrap the harvested, unwashed pieces in plastic and store them in the refrigerator. They should last for months.
You can keep harvesting through the winter and into the following spring, anytime the ground isn’t frozen. Just be aware that if you break off side roots, they’ll grow into new plants. You may end up with more than you need.
To process the horseradish, peel and dice the root pieces. Grind them in a blender with a little water and ice, until you have the consistency you want.
Add two or three tablespoons of white vinegar and a half-teaspoon of salt or table sugar for extra flavor. (Don’t use cider vinegar.) For a milder sauce, add the vinegar immediately after grinding, to inhibit the enzyme activity that causes the fiery taste.
To make a hotter sauce, grind the roots and wait several minutes before adding the vinegar.
Pack the sauce in clean, tightly sealed jars and store in the refrigerator or freezer.
McMillin likes horseradish on everything, including eggs, salads and sandwiches, but warns that the roots are pretty powerful when you grate or grind them, and you’ll shed plenty of tears preparing your own horseradish at home.
“It’s a lot easier to buy it in a jar than to grow it,” he chuckles.