Fresh horseradish has a powerful burning spicy taste that can clear your sinuses and redden your eyes. It’s similar to wasabi or Wasabi is similar to horseradish if you’ve ever tried it.
The roots of horseradish are most commonly used, but the leaves are also useful and serve well is salads, pestos and assorted recipes.
Horseradish roots or leaves aren’t easy to find unless you’re growing your own. Growing your own is easy even for those who aren’t blessed wih a green thumb. See Growing Horseradish
Once you’ve procured leaves and or roots of the horse radish, preparing and preserving them can be a tad tricky, just a tad mind you. Fresh roots will keep for only a few weeks at most so long as they are refrigerated, the leaves will only keep for a few days and are best used asap.
How to Prepare Horseradish Root
If you are into sado-masochism and you relish pain do not use gloves when you handle horse radish roots, rubbing your eyes once you get the juice on your fingers adds to the exquisite agony. If you’re a normal person who cringes at the thought of burnt retinas and inflamed skin be sure to wear gloves and keep your hands away from your eyes. Fresh horseradish is much more intense than store bought versions.
With fresh horse radish roots common sense dictates that you wash them thoroughly to remove any soil residue. Sometimes the skin is fairly thin, sometimes it’s a bit tough and should be removed. Peeling the skin is as easy as peeling potatoes and done in the same fashion.
Most recipes require that the roots be grated before use. Some recipes simply require it be sliced thin.
How to Freeze Horseradish
To freeze horseradish root for later use, it should be grated beforehand and stored in an airtight container. Whole horseradish root will not always freeze equally and are more subject to freezer burn. Grated horse radish will not only freeze at a uniform rate but is much easier to defrost. If you have a vacuum sealer they work well for this purpose as they lock out the air and lock in the essential oils and aroma.
Enthusiasts will sometimes store / freeze whole roots in sand, although this is a bit burdensome for the average person it is effective.
Place the unmolested roots into a box of dry sand and place it in a cool, dark place throughout the winter. Fresh roots can be retrieved and used as needed throughout the winter season.
Fill a box with clean, dry sand, leaving about 1/4 of the total volume of the box as head space on top. Place the whole root into the sand as it would have been growing in the ground – the smaller side facing down.
Do not allow any of the roots to come into contact with one another. Be sure the roots are entirely covered with sand and store them in a dark and cool / cold location. Don’t allow them to come in direct sunlight.
The leaves are always best when used fresh, they get soggy very quickly and do not store well. Fresh horseradish leaves are a spring treat, best harvested before summer sets in. Young leaves are subtle and tasty, older leaves of summer are tough and spindly.
Older leaves can still be used, but should be steamed or even boiled first along with spinach and /or assorted greens. The leaves can also be chopped and diced and added to some dishes in moderation.
Pesto, dressings, soups, stews and so forth will benefit from a pinch of horseradish leaf.