Welcome to my world and beyond...

A collection of snippets of the books I write and, occasionally, my life and the things that inspire my writing...

Monday, April 9, 2012

A to Z "H" is for horseradish: A bitter herb that runs wild.

Horseradish...love it or hate. There seems to be no middle ground.

My boss's 80 year old father gave me a "start" of it two years ago.  Midsummer. Tough time to move a plant. When their bright green leaves should be busy, photosynthesizing energy to support a comfortably established plant, these poor things were being jerked out of the ground and moved in the high heat of summer.

Don't feel too sorry for it. :-)  I didn't. I knew better.

I gave it a spot in the corner of the garden where shade prevails most days.  I tucked chucked it into the ground and told it, "Behave yourself. I'll only put up with so much. This is your corner, and when you start to explore the rest of the garden, I will drag you right out of that ground quicker than you can say cocktail sauce!"

Two years later, even with drought summers and lack of sunshine, it has prevailed and is running across the dirt like gardener's garters. You do have to admire its tenacity.

So, dig it up I will. Not only because it has (as expected) misbehaved, but its unwanted neighbor, a dock that greatly resembles it, has set up shop practically intertwined with the stuff.

I approached the garden with a sharp shovel. The afternoon was breezy and cool, and the sky was splotched with patches of blue. About "enough to make a pair of Dutchman's britches" as the old timers used to say.

Speaking of old timers...they said a lot of things.  Back around the road, at the neighbor's, where the valley seems to drop down to nowhere, some seventy years ago the local fellas used to meet to play cards.   My dad used to like to tell about one springtime evening when they were playing cards and drinking some "shine" out of water glasses.  He was just a teenager. It must have been a month that had the letter "R" in it, because you don't dig up horseradish in the other months.

Before they knew it, the dares to drink a glass of shine had turned to a dare to "drink" a glass of freshly ground horseradish.  One of the neighbors did. "Damn near killed him." my dad used to say, with a gleam in his eye.

It's also one of the "bitter herbs of spring" the old timer's ingested to "flush out winter".  A spring tonic. I suspect there might be science behind that.  The properties that make some plants bitter also inhibit bacteria from binding with protein--like that found in the urinary tract.  Dandelion and cranberries-both bitter, have been used by herbal practitioners to treat UTIs.

So, I set to work: The left is what I was facing. The horseradish is easily identifiable at this stage by the fern looking leaves in its center. The middle photo shows how it was escaping out of its corner. The photo on right shows that there is no other way to do it but dig in the dirt.

Here, the left shows horseradish roots, center is the similar dock roots, and right is dent de lion. (lion's tooth) aka dandelion. 

On left is a large, two year old root--woody and too tough to use. but it can be replanted to produce more roots.  Center is tender roots ends from a two year old plant, and on the right is the corner of the garden, weeded, replanted, looking as it should.

"Life begins the day you plant a garden."  To which I say:

Escaping begins the day you plant a horseradish. :-)

Happy spring. Happy gardening, all. :-)


  1. Ha, I had no idea horseradish was invasive like that. I have a mint plant that escaped its pot and no matter how often I pull it up, it returns the following year!

    1. Oh, the mints! They are crazy-aggressive, true survivors. :-) There is a trick to managing them. Take a 2 foot long section of pipe PVC, terracotta--whatever you can scrounge,and dig a hole deep enough to bury it standing on end--allow about 4 inches to protrude above the ground. Fill the pipe with dirt to within a few inches of the top--planting the mint last. This should be deep enough to prevent the roots from diving down and spreading back up on the outside, and allowing a few inches at the top (with monitoring) should keep it from running across the soil to spread. :-) Thanks for visiting and taking the time to read it. :-)

  2. Hi...I'm hopping over from the A to Z challenge. Lovely post...good luck with the challenge.

    Donna L Martin

    1. Thank you for visiting, Donna, and for your kind words :-)

  3. Love horseradish but glad to know I should probably plant it in a pot.

    1. Ho Johanna :-) I love the stuff, too. I had some planted in a growing box, and it struggled. I think it likes its moisture. So if you decide to go with a container, maybe some of that moisture control potting soil would be a good idea. I have lots of starts to share. :-) *sigh* that is the only shortcoming of "virtual" neighbors. We can't hand a start of a plant across the garden fence to them. :-) Thank you for visiting!

  4. I have no idea why I've never grown horseradish- I love the stuff! I think I might even be able to eat it faster than it can grow! Although eventually I might get a stomach ache :-)

    1. Ha! Hi Lily! lol... It might be tummy-ache inducing :-) I would love to share a start with you. If you know anyone who grows it, I am sure they have a start to spare. :-) Thank you for visiting!

  5. I had no idea they are an herbal remedy. I just thought they tasted good on my roast beef. New Follower and you got a versatile blogger award from my blog! Head over to pick it up.
    - Maurice Mitchell
    The Geek Twins | Film Sketchr
    @thegeektwins | @mauricem1972

  6. Hi Maurice :-) The herbal remedy? I think that there is something to it. When I was growing up, we used to eat dandelion greens in the springtime--with a hot bacon/potato dressing on them. That was at dad's insistence. That branch of the family had been doing it for generations.

    I love it on roast beef--and on ham. :-)

    Thank you for the award! I will head on over and check it out--will have a new group of blogging buddies to bestow it upon, at the end of April.

    Nice to meet you--and thank you for taking the time to read this :-)

  7. Isn't wasabi made from horseradish? If it is, it's one of my favourite condiments. Especially with sashimi!

  8. Yes and no :-) From the large family of brassicas--which include the horseradish, but not in the genus of the horseradish.

    It is good. We can get dried wasabi coated green peas to eat as a snack.

    One bit of wisdom, I share--that I learned the hard way. Wasabi and guacamole look deceptively similar. But, if you take a bite of guacamole and it turns out to be wasabi--you are in for some pain... :-)

    Thank you for visiting! :-)