Niether a horse nor a radish, this spicy powder will no doubt add a unique heat.
Horseradish is neither horse nor radish. It’s a root vegetable from the same family of plants that include mustard, and wasabi. It is used as a spice because for its hot, pungent flavor. The powder is most commonly known as “wasabi,” in many countries because it is colored and used as a cheaper alternative to the far more expensive, and difficult to cultivate Japanese cousin, wasabi root.
It is most often used in the preparation of sushi, but it also has been used in meat, poultry, and other seafood preparations.
Horseradish root is pungent, hot, acrid. Used in limited quantities, it provides a bit of bitter kick to sauces, and contrast to heavy, fatty cuts of meat like prime rib. It is a bold, unmistakeable taste, unique in the culinary world.
The root originates in the cold and inhospitable northlands of Eurasia, somewhere from what is now Russia or Serbia. It was traded by ancient peoples as far South as Northern Africa in ancient times, and gradually became a global foodstuff, traveling first into Asia, and then into the Americas with European settlement. Unlike other plants, like peppers, it is highly soil adaptive, and retains its flavor profile no matter where it is planted.
The earliest written record of horseradish dates back to Egypt in 1500 BC. As it’s not native to Egypt, we know that it was traded by ancient peoples a lot earlier. where Serbian tribes roamed far before anything like Russia or even Keivan Rus’ (Russia’s ancient predecessor) existed.
The word horseradish is attested in English from the 1590s. It combines the word horse (formerly used in a figurative sense to mean strong or coarse) and the word radish. The horseradish plant is in actuality very strong, if left undisturbed in the garden it begins to spread via underground shoots and can become invasive.
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