A big, strong sailor man introduced me to horseradish many years ago, when I was but a thin, pimply, awkward adolescent. This sailor man was my bestie’s daddy and we will call him Bubba. On this particular evening, I was spending yet another Saturday night at my bestie’s house and Bubba was in the kitchen cooking up a batch of his homegrown, homemade horsey sauce.
As my bestie and I sat at their little dinette table, watching his broad shoulders chop and stir, he bestowed upon us all there was to know about horseradish. I had never heard a grown man speak so passionately about a vegetable and I was enthralled. The kitchen was so hot even Satan would have complained, and a spicy stench held thick in the air, but that didn’t stop Bubba, even as tears were streaming down his cheeks. He continued to work his horseradish magic until, at last, it was ready for the taste test.
Bubba excitedly grabbed his spoon and said, “Here we go girls!”, and dove in for his first bite.
In an instant, Bubba’s face turned as red as a tomato, his eyes squinted shut, his knees buckled and he let out a sound like no other. It was something between a laugh, a yell, and a cough, and it reverberated through the house and out over the neighborhood like an M80. “Woooooooooowwwwwieeeeee! That’s some good horseradish!”
Astonishingly, he dove in for another bite and again hollered like a stuck pig. My bestie and I sat there and laughed our asses off watching him torture himself with delight as he devoured his creation. He was sweating, he was breathing hard, his eyes were watering and he was loving every minute of it! He even tried to convince us girls to try a bite, but I think we were way too scared after seeing the reaction it produced. It sure was hilarious to witness though.
And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is why I grow horseradish today. I even started my own batch with a cutting from Bubba’s garden and every time I see it in my garden, I am reminded of that crazy, steamy night in Bubba’s kitchen learning that growing and cooking your own food is a pleasure unmatched by any grocery store produced meal.
With that, I will now bestow upon you a little bit about what I learned that evening from the man himself.
Horseradish Facts & Advice:
First, you need to know horseradish is a perennial and it is extremely prolific. You start out with this ugly 6 inch root cutting, and end up with a plant that has 3 foot tall leaves and spreads like a virgin’s legs on prom night. It’s no joke! Plant horseradish in an area where it’s free to go crazy, or plant it in a large container. Horseradish sets deep roots and when it’s dug up for harvest or transplanting, any small pieces of root left behind will grow into new plants. It’s a sneaky little bastard.
When you first plant your root cutting, dig a whole 12 inches deep, amend with a shovel full of compost, and plant the root 2 inches below the soil surface.
Second, horseradish should be grown in full sun, but I grow mine in partial shade, and it’s doing quite nicely. Honestly, my horseradish is extremely neglected, it’s not in the best soil, and it still flourishes. It’s almost impossible to kill this plant and, after only 1 year, you will have more than you can harvest and eat or share. If you want to care properly for your horseradish, keep it watered and give it a dose of low-nitrogen fertilizer once in a while.
Third, horseradish is harvested in the late fall after the first hard frost. Dig up the root, remove the leaves, and grate, or chop it up, for your own homegrown, homemade horsey sauce. Be warned, that homegrown horseradish is much stronger than store-bought, so use caution. Or, go crazy, and let the whole neighborhood hear you shout with delight as you try your first bite. Make Bubba proud!
For more information on how to grow or prepare horseradish, check out the websites below:
Happy horseradish growing!