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Horseradish nutrition facts

Horseradish is a pungent, long, tapering root that employed as a condiment to the recipes. It possesses strong, hot, and sharp flavor which can only be appreciated after experiencing its unique taste!

Botanically, this spicy root belongs to the genus, Armoracia, in the Brassicaceae (mustards) family; sharing with other members of Brassica like mustard, kale, radish, cabbage, etc.

Scientific name: Armoracia rusticana.

horseradish roots
Horseradish root. Note for long, coarse, tapering roots with rusty brown peel and white color flesh.
Photo courtesy: fooding around

Horseradish is native to the Eastern and Mediterranean regions of Europe from where it spread to Americas during colonial times. The plant is a small perennial herb, but can be grown as an annual field crop for its thick, rough, fleshy roots in many parts of Europe, America, and Asia, including Germany, USA, England, Hungary, Japan, and China.

wasabi-japanese horseradish
Wasabi root.

A. rusticana plant features broad, crinkled leaves. It grows best under cool climates with good sunlight conditions. In general, the rootlets (root sections) planted in the spring and harvested by autumn. It measures about 6-12 inches long with few round knots at the root-end. Fresh root has rough, gray-brown outer surface.

Wasabi (Wasabia japonica) is a Japanese variant of horseradish but has more intense, and stronger flavor. Its interior features delicate apple green color flesh.

Health benefits of horseradish

  • Horseradish is low in calories and fat. However, it contains good amounts of dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants. Certain active principles in it found to have been anti-inflammatory, diuretic (increase urine output), and nerve soothing effects.

  • The root contains many volatile phyto-chemical compounds, which give its much-famed biting character. Some of the major constituents in the root are allyl isothiocyanate, 3-butenyl isothiocyanate, 2-propenylglucosinlate (sinigrin), 2-pentyl isothiocyanate, and phenylethyl isothiocyanate. It has been found that these compounds have been known to carry anti-oxidant and detoxification functions.

  • Some of the volatile phyto-chemical compounds in the root stimulate secretion of salivary, gastric, and intestinal digestive enzymes, and thereby facilitate digestion. It thus, works as a potent gastric stimulant which increases appetite.

  • Horseradish has good amounts of vitamin-C, which is a powerful water soluble anti-oxidant. 100 g fresh root holds 29 mg or 41% of daily-recommended values. Vitamin-C helps alleviate viral infections by boosting immunity. In addition, it helps remove harmful free-radicals from the body and may help protect it from cancers, inflammation, infections, etc.

  • This root-spice has some of vital minerals in moderation like sodium, potassium, manganese, iron, copper, zinc, and magnesium. Iron is an important co-factor for cytochrome-oxidase enzymes during cellular metabolism. It is also required for red blood cell production in the bone marrow. Being an important component of cell and body fluids, potassium helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the powerful antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.

  • In addition, the root has small amounts of essential vitamins such as folate, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid.

Selection and storage

Generally, horseradish root is harvested during the late fall when its leaves killed by the frost. You may also want to buy fresh roots from the markets during this season. Select fresh, stony hard root that is devoid of sprouts, mold, or soft spots. Avoid green-tinged roots, as they are very bitter. Furthermore, avoid overmature, old, and larger roots, as they tend to be excessively fibrous and thus, off-flavored.

Once at home, store the root in loose paper pack and place it inside the refrigerator where it will remain dormant for next 6-9 months. Commercially prepared horseradish products can be readily available in the stores all around the year.

Preparation and serving methods

Fresh root has beige outer color. Clean it using moist cloth to remove surface dirt as you do it for ginger. Wash gently in cold water and mop it dry. Cut the root from the tip end as much part as you may require for your family that should last for 2-3 days. Keep the unused root inside a loosely wrapped plastic bag inside the refrigerator to prevent it from drying out.

To prepare, fresh grated horseradish root is mixed with white vinegar in a desired manner to control (stabilize) its hotness. The preparation, however, gradually loses its flavor with time and turns off-white to brown color even if you keep it in the cold storage.

The pungency and hotness of horseradish may not be appreciable in the intact root. As in onion and radish, crushing or grating the root releases volatile allyl-isothiocyanate compound that can cause irritation to eyes, skin, mucus membranes of nose and throat. Vinegar or citric acid neutralizes pungency and stabilizes its flavor. Generally, 2 to 3 tablespoons of white vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon of table salt added to one cup of grated horseradish. Add vinegar 1-2 minutes later to get milder preparation.

Like in many other spices, horseradish too loses its flavor instantly. In order to keep the fragrance and flavor intact, it is generally grated just before preparing dishes and added to the cooking recipes at the final stages.

Here are some serving methods:

horseradish sauce
Steak with horseradish cream and french fries.
Photo courtesy: jeffreyallen
  • Horseradish is one of the traditional spices that is relished even today in the countryside. Fresh root grated directly on the recipes to add special jest.

  • The root is used in many preparations, including dips, dressings, salads, and sauces as an accompaniment with meat, chicken, and seafood.

  • Horseradish sauce with cream is a perfect accompaniment to steak, venison, and fish like mackerel, tuna, and smoked trout.

Safety profile

Horseradish can cause irritation to skin, mucus membranes, and eyes. This is due to release of allyl sulphide gas (allyl-isothiocyanate) while chopping, crushing, or grating the root. Disruption of the cell wall activates enzyme myrosinase which when reacts with glucosinolates to form allyl isothiocyanates. Lemon citrus or vinegar stops this reaction and stabilizes the flavor. Its effect can be minimized by using blender/mixer in well-ventilated place and wearing protective gloves and mask. (Medical disclaimer).

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Further Resources:

1. Horseradish Information Council. (opens in a new window).

2. USDA National Nutrient Database.

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