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What is horseradish?
- Horseradish is a plant that comes from the mustard family.
- Horseradish plants are perennial.
- Horseradish roots can be grated for use as a condiment in a variety of dishes, sauces, dressings and marinades.
- Horseradish delivers flavor to any meal without fat or cholesterol.
- Silver Spring prepared horseradish is naturally preserved with vinegar and salt, and sometimes cream, to bring this intriguing herb to you in a convenient form.
- Horseradish is one of the five bitter herbs for the Jewish Passover.
What makes horseradish hot?
The sharp and piquant flavor and the penetrating smell of horseradish become apparent when the root is grated or ground. This is because the root contains highly volatile oils which are released by enzyme activity when the root cells are crushed. If exposed to air or stored improperly, horseradish loses its pungency rapidly after grinding.
A more technical version
Horseradish has a relatively high concentration of glucosinalates stored in its roots. When the root cells are crushed by cutting, chewing or grating, enzymes are released that convert these glucosinalates into highly volatile oils called isothiocyanates. It is the isothiocyanate that gives horseradish its characteristic bite.
Finer grinds of horseradish are usually hotter than courser grinds because more volatile oils have been released.
If freshly grated horseradish is exposed to air for long periods of time, kept out of refrigeration or stored improperly, it will lose its heat quickly.
Brown-looking horseradish usually means the product is old and will have lost most of its characteristic bite.
Keep horseradish cold to keep it hot!
To keep prepared horseradish (commercial or homemade) at its flavorful best, store it in a tightly covered jar in the refrigerator or in the freezer. It will keep its good quality for about four to six months in the refrigerator and longer in the freezer. Fresh roots may be stored for several months if they are placed in polyethylene bags and stored at 32°F to 38°F.
Where does the name horseradish come from?
There are many different theories on where the name horseradish comes from. We believe the name horseradish may have come from an English adaptation of its German name. In early times the plant grew wild in European coastal areas; the Germans called it "meerrettich," or "sea radish." The German word "meer" sounds like "mare" in English. Perhaps "mareradish" eventually became "horseradish."
The word "horseradish" first appeared in print in 1597 in John Gerarde's English herbal on medicinal plants.