What’s with all the horsing around?

Horseradish. It’s only distantly related to the common radish and most certainly has nothing to do with horses. So what is it with this tangy little condiment and it’s even stranger name? Appearing in the Gourmet Bag this week, we thought we would shed a little more neigh-ledge on the matter.

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Horseradish today is most commonly known as a meat condiment, one that particularly pairs well with a Sunday roast beef. This wasn’t always the case however, back in 1597 when it was first published for it’s medicinal qualities. This was later attributed to the vitamin C and folate content of the plant.

That’s right, horseradish is a plant, and funnily enough has no real ties to any known horse. It is thought the name was derived from the German word for this root plant, meerrettich, leading to mare and subsequently horse.

The flavour of tangy, gritty sauce that we all know and love is actually from the oils of the ground up root of the horseradish plant. In order to hold it’s naturally pungent odour and flavour, this root must be pickled with vinegar almost instantly after grinding.

To keep your horseradish hot, you’ll need to keep it cold. Chilling your horseradish, alongside the pickling process, works to keep the volatile oils intact. It is these volatile oils, produced when the root is ground and the enzyme is broken down, that really pack a flavour punch!

Hold your horses everybody . . . not only does horseradish hail from the mustard family, it is also a cousin of wasabi! This sure explains that zingy kick with every bite! In fact, most commercially purchased wasabi is now made of horseradish, due to the similarity of the flavours with these two roots combined with the growing shortage of the wasabi plant.

So next time your looking to add a little zing to your dish, no need to look further than this radish-ing little condiment.

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