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Plant Profile: Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana, syn. Cochlearia armoraci)

Horseradish can be the most aggravating plant in the vegetable garden. It is coarse, vigorous, and doesn’t know its place. It is perennial so must be given a permanent place in the garden but won’t stay put. So, why do we grow it? Because we couldn’t be without horseradish sauce in the kitchen. And in spite of its unruly ways, it is easy to grow in every other way. Just find a friend with a plant and obtain a piece of the root, plant it, and you will have more than enough to feed yourself and the neighbors by the next year.

Type: Perennial herb.

Bloom: Small white flowers are borne in terminal racemes in mid-summer.

Foliage: Lower leaves coarse, up to 1 long, and oblong; upper leaves smaller and lanceolate.

Size: 2-3’ H x 2-3’ W.

Light: Full sun but tolerates partial shade.

Soil: Rich, loose, deeply cultivated, moist, well-drained.

Hardiness: Zones 5-9; prefer cool summers.

Care: Best planted in a container sunk in the ground because plants rapidly multiply. Every piece of root left in the soil after harvesting potentially can give rise to another plant.

Pests and Diseases: None of significance

Propagation: Root divisions in early spring: set crowns at soil level. Root cuttings in early spring: take eight-nine inch cuttings from young roots that are about ½” in diameter. Cut the top part at an angle and place in a four-five inch deep trench 24-36” apart. Sprinkle with two-three inches of loose soil.

Companion plants: Said to make potatoes more disease resistant.

Harvesting: For the best flavor, harvest young roots after the first frost and throughout the winter as weather permits. Harvested roots can be kept in a cold cellar or the crisper of the refrigerator for months. The odor and taste of horseradish is due to a volatile oil that is only released when the cells are broken or damaged so will not decline significantly in storage.

For directions on preparing horseradish for the table see my post “How to Prepare Horseradish”.

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