Botanical Names: Cochlearia armoracia

Family: Crucifereae

Horse-radish is native to the marshy districts of Eastern Europe. It is cultivated in the USA, British Isles, North India and the hill stations of South India, parts of the Mediterranean region, and Central Europe.

The plant is a perennial herb, and is naturalised in many parts of North America. Horse-radish is closely related to turnip, cabbage and mustard. It is the thick white, fleshy root, which is highly prized as an appetising condiment. The plant has broad, crinkled leaves, and the tap root is tuberous and cylindrical, about 30 cm long and 18 mm in diameter.

Horse-radish root does not exhibit much aroma, but on cutting, shredding and grating, a pungent and lachrymatory, very strong odour is released, which vanishes after some 10 or 20 minutes. Japanese horse-radish is nearly indistinguishable from horse­radish in taste, but a little bit stronger. Since it is never used in sour sauces, it cannot be substituted by cannot horse-radish, but possibly by fresh one. The pungent component of horse­radish is allyl isothiocyanate.

Its composition is as follows:

  • Protein: 3.2 %
  • Fat: 0.2 %
  • Ash: 1.8 %
  • Carbohydrates: 21.4 %
  • Fibre: 2.4 %

The root is a rich source of vitamin C.

In central and northern Europe, the fresh root is grated and eaten together with cured ham, or cooked or roasted meat. In Austria, at Easter time, cured ham with horse-radish is a traditional meal. In this country, freshly grated horse-radish is frequently mixed with grated apples, and then eaten as a spicy relish to fried or cooked meat. The lively pungency of the root is caused by its volatile oil, which resembles mustard oil.

Mainly grown for its roots, horse-radish was formerly used medicinally, particularly as an antiscorbutic. Today, the roots make a popular condiment, and are usually grated and mixed with vinegar to make a sauce or relish for meats and seafood. The wilted foliage may be used as a poultice to relieve toothache and facial neuralgia.

Horse-radish is stimulant, aperient, diuretic, antiseptic and diaphoretic. It stimulates the digestive organs, acts on lungs and urinary tracts to clear them of congestion. The herb is a very strong diuretic, and is used to ease dropsy, gravel and calculus. It is consumed for gout and rheumatism, and used to expel worms in children. A poultice made from the fresh root can be applied to rheumatic joints. It is useful in treating whooping cough and sore throat in children.

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