Wednesday, July 01, 2009

July is National Horseradish Month

July is national horseradish month. Horseradish is native to eastern Europe but grows very well here in the United States. Both the leaves and root are edible. The leaves are used in salads, but it is prized for its root. Horseradish is a member of the mustard family and the roots have a spicy, pungent bite. They are usually grated or ground. When grated or ground, the roots release their volatile oils. This gives horseradish its characteristic bite.

Bottled (prepared) horseradish is ground and usually mixed with vinegar. Vinegar stops the reaction and stabilizes its flavor. If vinegar is added immediately after it is crushed, it will give a milder finished product. Processors may also add sugar, salt or other ingredients like beet juice. If you have seen red horseradish, it is the beet juice that gives it its color.

Historically horseradish has been used as far back as 1500 BC. It was rubbed on the lower back to alleviate pain and the early Greeks thought of it as an aphrodisiac. It has also used to help expel mucus from the lungs, to treat food poisoning, scurvy, tuberculosis and colic. It has long been one of the five bitter herbs used in the Jewish Passover.

The odd sounding name is believed to come from a mispronunciation. The German name
meerrettich (meaning sea radish since it grows near the sea) was mispronounced by English speakers to meerraidsh. Meer is similar to mare which then was changed to horse. Radish comes from the Latin word for root, radix.

Horseradish goes really well with roast beef and ham. Remember it next time you are making yourself a sandwich. It adds a great kick to deviled eggs, artichoke dip and salmon rollups. July meets grilling, so think about horseradish when you fire up the grill. It goes great with burgers (add a teaspoon or two to the ground meat before shaping the patties), marinade for steaks, brushed on salmon or other oily fish. It also goes great in Bloody Marys and adds a kick to your Margaritas.

Enjoy horseradish this month!

No comments: