A pungent perennial, horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) is a member of the Cruciferae family (Brassicaceae). A very hardy plant, horseradish flourishes in USDA zones 4-8. It is used primarily for its roots, which are grated and used as a condiment. Like its cousins, broccoli and radish, the horseradish plant has flowers; the question is, are horseradish flowers edible? If not, should you cut horseradish flowers?
As mentioned, horseradish is grown primarily for its peppery root. A cold hardy crop, horseradish thrives in either sun or partial shade and is propagated from root cuttings. Horseradish establishes rapidly and even after harvesting the roots, will more than likely pop up in the garden whether you want it to or not. For this reason, many people plant horseradish in pots to retard the possibility of spreading.
If you plant horseradish in the garden, choose a sunny to partially sunny site and allow 18-20 inches (45-50 cm.) between plantings. Plant the root cuttings as soon as the ground is thawed enough to dig in the spring.
Plant the cuttings twice as deep as the piece of root since the plants develop a very long taproot. This, of course, is why they plants tend to return and can become invasive. Although you are digging up the root to harvest, it’s very difficult to get every bit. The remaining root pieces easily propagate and, voila, you have horseradish growing again.
As the plants grow, you can pick young leaves to add to salads for a peppery kick. The older leaves, while edible, are tough and unpalatable. So how about flowers on horseradish? On some crops, the flowers are pinched or cut back to encourage leafy growth, especially on herbaceous plants. On other plants, flowers are encouraged because the end goal is for fruit.
Horseradish falls into neither of these categories. While you may see a horseradish plant flowering, the blooms are neither here nor there. As the plant grows, small leaves become large, up to 2 feet (0.5 m.) long, and coarse, and a flower stalk pokes out from atop the plant. From the stalks, small, insignificant, white flowers are borne.
In the summer, you may or may not see the horseradish plant flowering. Flowers on horseradish are not of any great importance since they produce little, if any, viable seed. Some years the plant may not bloom at all. In either case, while the aromatic young leaves are used in cooking, the flowers are not.
Because the plant is being grown for its root, there is no need to cut horseradish flowers, unless, of course, you wish to use them for indoor flower arrangements – although the flowers are not showy. If your horseradish plant has flowers, it may even be of some benefit to leave the blossoms alone. They may attract pollinators to the rest of the vegetable garden, which is certainly not a bad thing.
Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana, syn. Cochlearia armoracia) is a perennial plant of the family Brassicaceae (which also includes mustard, wasabi, broccoli, cabbage, and radish). It is a root vegetable, cultivated and used worldwide as a spice and as a condiment. The species is probably native to southeastern Europe and western Asia.
Site. Plant horseradish in full sun it will tolerate partial shade. Grow horseradish in rich well-drained soil. Prepare the soil to a depth of 10 to 12 inches (25-30cm) and remove stones and lumps that might cause the roots to split. Add sand and compost to the planting bed to keep the soil loose. Horseradish prefers a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.8.
Planting time. Horseradish is a cold-hardy plant. Set out crowns or root cuttings 4 to 6 weeks before the average last frost date in your region. Horseradish grows best in cool, moist regions where the temperature stays between 45°F and 75°F (7-24°C).
Planting and spacing. Set crowns just at soil level. Plant roots in shallow trenches 3 to 4 inches (7-10cm) deep and cover with 2 to 3 inches (5-7cm) of soil. Slice root cuttings at a 30-degree angle or plant with the narrow end down fill the trench until the wide end of the root is just covered. Space roots 24 to 36 inches (61-91cm) apart. Horseradish planted in the garden should be contained with wooden, metal, or masonry borders set at least 24 inches (61cm) deep around the bed.
Companion plants. Potatoes, yams
Container growing. Choose a container that will allow horseradish roots to grow 24 to 30 inches (61-76cm) deep.
Avoid leaving pieces of the root in the ground after harvest, they will produce a new plant the next year.
What can I do to make my horseradish plant have that nice hot bite to the taste again? It was originally my grandfather's and began in soil loaded with chicken manure. It was transplanted twice to its present location in my garden where it's been growing for several years. Every year, I amend my garden with chicken manure and compost, but still the horseradish tastes relatively bland in comparison with the nice bite it used to have. Any suggestions?
Believe it or not, you are probably over fertilizing it. It gets so much nutrients and grows so fast that the "flavor" is not as concentrated in the flesh of the root and therefore it tastes bland. Many herbs are like this. Don't fertilize it for a few years and you will see that bite return.
Last Updated: September 3, 2020 References Approved
This article was co-authored by Andrew Carberry, MPH. Andrew Carberry has been working in food systems since 2008. He has a Masters in Public Health Nutrition and Public Health Planning and Administration from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.
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Horseradish is a pungent root vegetable that is commonly used to impart a zesty, hot flavor to foods. Horseradish is a hardy perennial, and can be grown in cold climates, full sun, or light shade. Planting horseradish in your home garden will supply you with an abundance of the vegetable right at your fingertips, which you can use to season meats, fish, soups, sauces or even add to a fresh mixed salad for a little extra kick.
posted 5 days ago
In the summer of 2019 after several failed attempts I finally got a hunk of horseradish root from a grocery store to sprout and grow in a container in my garden. It flourished until the greens were killed in mid-winter and in the spring of 2020, I dug it up and found a diversity of small roots, which I divided and replanted in two containers. They again flourished through summer and a mild winter until February, when we got polar vortexed like so many others. Very little snow and a week of subzero temperatures culminating in a local record (-13f) cold pretty much killed everything that I normally consider winter-hardy in my garden, including all my kale and most of my garlic and onions that were in pots (although the ones in the ground seem fine). But as soon as it warmed up, my trusty daffodils and chives sprang up out of the ground. as did my horseradish, which was entirely unexpected. (I assumed it would straggle back from the roots later in the spring, as many other things hopefully will.)
Weirdly, though, it's sending up a profusion of flower shoots! It had not flowered previously. The shoots are delicious (texture of brocolli raab but tasting of very mild mustard greens) just munching them raw in the garden, snapped off at the ground with my fingers. I might not have thought to taste them, except some random podcast I listened to a few weeks back featured a man in Norway who claimed his horseradish (leaves and flower shoots) was the most prolific food source in his very northern garden.
I'm interested in this development of flowers in part because I understand that horseradish rarely sets seed (and the seed is usually sterile when it is set). Obviously I want to watch it in case it sets seed, which I will collect and test. However, I would expect it to be sterile, because there's no genetic diversity in my patch it all comes from a single supermarket root. Nonetheless, I'll see.
So, here's my question: should I expect my horseradish to flower every year, or is it a random/fluke event? Might it have been triggered by the very hard freeze we got, perhaps stressing/damaging the roots? The internet is all over the place, with some people saying theirs never flowers, and others saying it's rare/random, and still yet others (Hi, Skandi!) saying it flowers every year in the early spring for them. When does your horseradish flower, if it does?
On the related question of setting viable seed, virtually all I know on that subject comes from the Experimental Farm Network, who briefly offered some incredibly-hard-to-find horseradish seed this winter. (My timing was right to get a package before they sold out, which I am just now fixin' to plant.) They wrote:
Horseradish is propagated almost exclusively by dividing roots of existing clones, of which there exist just a few. True horseradish seed is practically a legend. but we are thrilled to announce that we are selling honest-to-goodness horseradish seed!
We received these seeds from Austin Jones in Colorado. In 2016, Austin started 13 horseradish plants from true horseradish seed, and 10 of them lived. The plants have never been disturbed or dug up, and they have been reliably producing seed for Austin. We suspect that because these plants were propagated from true seed, and there is some diversity in his patch, they are more likely to produce viable true seed themselves. Our germination test found just 5% of the seed germinated, but we are hopeful these seeds will germinate more readily in actual soil or seed-starting mix, compared to our germination chamber. At any event, with 50 seeds per packet, we hope you will get at least a few plants, and perhaps down the road you will produce your own seed! If you ever do, please get in touch!
To sum up: I don't expect seed from my supermarket monoclonal plants, but they are flowering most vigorously and I will monitor them, if I can resist the temptation to eat all the flowers. I would like to know if I should expect them to flower again every spring, now that they've done so once. (My taste buds will be very disappointed if they don't.) Meanwhile, if I get any plants from the EFN seed, I'll grow them out in proximity to the plants I already have and see if I can produce seed of my own. If y'all have any experience with seed-producing horseradish, please share!
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Most of us know horseradish as a classic accompaniment to hot or cold roast beef. Here some other ways to use the inimitable flavor of homemade horseradish. When using horseradish in hot dishes, add it just before serving, as cooking destroys its flavor.