Horseradish – Armoracia rusticana – “a vigorous perennial”

This crop has been used medicinally for headaches, rheumatism, and sore joints.  One component of horseradish, allyl isothiocyanate, is a natural decongestant when inhaled.  Here’s the trick.   To get those sinuses clear just mash a large amount of the root, and hold it approximately 4 inches from your nose.  Breathe in sharply and then put a pinch on your tongue.  This will effectively relieve your decongestion.  Certain English speaking regions even referred to the plant as “stingnose”  [SOURCE:  http://www.motherearthnews.com/Organic-Gardening/2003-10-01/Horseradish.aspx?page=1]

In our garden discussions, the question came up about what to do for tending the horseradish.  Its leaves have gotten much bigger, and we wondered about the harvest schedule.   I looked the crop up in Rodale’s organic gardening encyclopedia.  Here’s the scoop.  You harvest in October or November when the plant begins to die back because it will do most of its growing in the late summer and fall.

Often you need to dig down several feet to get all the roots (which are the edible part).  Whatever roots are left will produce new growth the following year, and you can expect that the plant will spread vigorously from even a few remaining roots.  To keep your horseradish crop from getting out of control, remove the root system completely, and replant for next year with small, manageable sections.  Alternatively, you could bottom out a bucket and plant inside as a way to keep the roots from spreading outward.

Special watering attention should be paid during the late summer and fall when the horseradish is growing most rapidly.  For the perennial to propagate itself, it requires a period of dormancy (i.e. the winter of a cold climate).

As a bonus, the spring leaves can be used for salads.  That means the gardening team here at Wild Roots could get adventuresome with the leaves as soon as we like!

~Molly A. H.

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