“H” Is For Horseradish by Nazia Hussain

Hi there, it’s Naz here again. When I started writing these articles for Merryn, my brief was to look at herbs and spices. There are many herbs/spices in existence that I very rarely use in my own cooking but are worthy of a mention; horseradish is one of those herbs/spices. I do like to use it in sweet dishes like fruit salads to provide a bit of a zing to the taste buds and love eating it in the form of ‘wasabi’ (Japanese horseradish).

’H’ is for Horseradish

The English term ‘Horseradish’ originates from the misinterpretation of the word ‘meerrettich’ in German which translates as ‘mare radish’. This can be directly translated into English, as a mare is a female horse.

The origins of horseradish are somewhat confusing. Some people say that it originated from Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean, where as others say that the earliest account of horseradish was in the 13th century in Western Europe. Those in the latter camp believe that the consumption of horseradish spread from Central Europe to Scandinavia and then west to England during the rennaissance.

It was only in the 17th Century that the Brits began to consume horseradish and labourers at that! However, it then became a standard accompaniment to beef and oysters. Infact it became so popular that many of the inns and coach stations would grow the root and add it to cordials to revive exhausted travellers. Horseradish was then transported to the USA via the early settlers who began cultivating it in the colonies. It became a common spice in the northeast and grew wild in Massachusetts. However, it was only in the mid 1850s that commercial cultivation started when immigrants started horseradish farms in the Midwest.

Long before horseradish emerged in Europe, the Egyptians knew about it and used it as far back as 1500 BC. The Greeks also used it for aches and pains and as an aphrodisiac. Even today, many use horseradish syrup as cough medicine and some were convinced that it could cure rheumatism and tuberculosis. Legend has it the Delphic oracle told Apollo, “The radish is worth its weight in lead, the beet its weight in silver, the horseradish its weight in gold.”http://www.horseradish.org/history.html



Horseradish is a plant that belongs to the mustard family. The root is the part which is most often used in food. On its own, it has no smell, but when cut, shredded, or grated, a very pungent aroma will exude. This however, does not last and within 10-20 minutes, will disappear. Its primary use is as a condiment with cold meats, like roast beef or cured/cooked ham, fish and oysters. It is customary to grate the root frequently during a meal so that it is fresh.

Tinned horseradish is available and is convenient but preservatives are added and the taste is just not the same as the real thing. Many people do not like using the tinned variety and stick to using it fresh and bearing with the side affects of streaming eyes and sinus clearance!!

Horseradish is often eaten at Easter time in England with roast beef and is considered to be a traditional Austrian meal when accompanied with cured ham. Japanese horseradish or wasabi as it is known, is usually mixed with soya sauce, and raw fish and tempuras are dipped into it to provide additional flavouring. Wasabi, has a slightly stronger aroma and taste than traditional horseradish and only a little is required to provide the zing that enhances the taste of the food.

Too much wasabi clears the sinuses and forces the tear ducts into motion.I was recently in a Japanese outlet in Dubai and was about to tuck into my tempura when I noticed a small piece of what I thought was some batter from my tempura, but was actually wasabi! I was about to put the entire piece in my mouth when a friend warned me that it was not batter, but was wasabi. I dread to think what would have happened if the entire portion had gone into my mouth!!

The powdered form of horseradish is made by grinding the root. It is then dried in heat. Some people use the root to make horseradish vinegar by adding shallots, onions, garlic, red pepper and the root to vinegar. In Austria, freshly grated horseradish is mixed with grated apples and eaten as a relish with meat. This mixture normally lasts for a day without losing the pungency.


Horseradish, as well as mustard oil, contains a particular chemical called allylisothiocyanate (AITC). This chemical is known to fight against the common bacteria Listeria, E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus which can cause food poisoning. Hence eating horseradish is a good way of fighting against food poisoning!!

Another advantage of eating horseradish is that it contains no FAT and a very small amount of carbohydrate, so for those people watching their weight, it’s great for adding flavour without calories.

One tablespoon of horseradish contains the following:

Calories 6

Carbohydrates 1.4g

Sodium 14mg

Potassium 44mg

Calcium 9mg

Phosphorous 5mg


I guess it’s time to experiment with horseradish and what better way to start then with this recipe below. As usual, I’m providing you with a recipe that I have tried and tested, is healthy and easy to prepare and will be fun to make in the hot summer. Have fun and see you next month!!

Horsey Fruit Salad Zing Recipe


Any fruits maybe used for this recipe but I used the following:

15-20 strawberries, stalks removed and then cut in ½

15-20 raspberries

2 Golden delicious apples, peeled, cored and chopped

1 Mango, peeled and chopped

3 Celery stalks, chopped into small pieces

1 tbsp freshly chopped dill

1 tbsp honey

¾ cup of plain low fat or non fat yoghurt

1-2 tsp horseradish depending on taste!! (the creamed variety is best for this but check that it doesn’t have any fat content in it or fresh horseradish can be ground and used)


1.Combine all the fruit into a large bowl

2.Mix the horseradish, dill, honey and yoghurt in another bowl or jug.

3.Check the dressing. The honey will give it a slight sweetness and the horseradish a bit of a zing. Add more horseradish if required.

4.Pour over the fruit and enjoy.

Back next month with more from Naz! If you have any suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact me onnoshbynaz@yahoo.co.uk. Feedback is always encouraged.

Bye for now.


by Nazia Hussain
A business consultant by day and a passionate cook by night. Nazia is currently away from her home, London, seeking new international recipes for her column! This article first appeared on PS Magazine last month.