If you visited my blog before, you know I write about a variety of topics (see also: About DLCS Management HERE). I started blogging before blogging was cool and before Blogger was a profession (See the first blogpost on WordPress HERE. Before my start on WordPress in 2011, I already blogged on other platforms, but those posts have been deleted).

I decided to start a new recurring blog theme: Sunday Selection, where DLCS will be posting what may seem to you posts about random subjects. For the 1st edition I dug into my unpublished draft blogposts and found one from April 2012! Since I’d like to introduce a Japanese blogger friend to European horseradish, I decided to edit and publish this almost 10 years old blogpost. 

Welcome to Sunday Selection #1: Horseradish, mierikswortel, hren + wasabi .

Horseradish Stockphoto from Istockphoto - DLCS Sunday Selection #1: Horseradish, mierikswortel, hren + wasabi

I always thought that horseradish was the same as wasabi, I thought the Japanese added colouring, since the roots I knew from the (Slovenian) garden were white. Not too long ago (*written in 2012) I figured out they’re two completely different things; the Japanese Wasabi grows in/under water, while horseradish grows underground!

BUT browsing the net, it seems I wasn’t too crazy;

Most of us won’t have eaten true wasabi. A relative of our more homespun horseradish, the Japanese root grows next to highland mountain streams, takes two years to reach maturity and is very perishable and therefore expensive to ship far from its growing patch. (The wasabi served in supermarket sushi is probably good old horseradish and some colouring. Source: BBC.

It took me years to learn to eat horseradish and now I can truly appreciate them. 

Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana, syn. Cochlearia armoracia) is a perennial plant of the Brassicaceae family, which also includes mustard, wasabi, broccoli, and cabbages. The plant is probably native to south eastern Europe and western Asia, but is popular around the world today. Horseradish has been cultivated since antiquity. Both root and leaves were used as a medicine during the Middle Ages and the root was used as a condiment on meats in Germany, Scandinavia, and Britain. It was taken to North America during Colonial times. It grows up to 1.5 metres (five feet) tall and is mainly cultivated for its large white, tapered root. The intact horseradish root has hardly any aroma. When cut or grated, however, enzymes from the damaged plant cells break down sinigrin (a glucosinolate) to produce allyl isothiocyanate (mustard oil), which irritates the sinuses and eyes. Once grated, if not used immediately or mixed in vinegar, the root darkens, loses its pungency, and becomes unpleasantly bitter when exposed to air and heat. 

Horseradish sauce made from grated horseradish root, vinegar and cream is a popular condiment. Also popular in the UK is Tewkesbury mustard, a blend of mustard and grated horseradish originally created in medieval times and mentioned by Shakespeare (Falstaff says: “his wit’s as thick as Tewkesbury Mustard” in Henry IV Part 2, Act 2, Scene 4.).

(Nutritional) value horseradish

Horseradish contains potassium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, as well as volatile oils, such as mustard oil (which has antibacterial properties due to the antibacterial mechanism of allyl isothiocyanate). Fresh, the plant contains average 79.31 mg of vitamin C per 100 g of raw horseradish. Known to have diuretic properties, the roots have been used to treat various minor health problems, including urinary tract infections, bronchitis, sinus congestion, ingrowing toenails and coughs. Compounds found in horseradish have been found to kill some bacterial strains.

The enzyme horseradish peroxidase, found in the plant, is used extensively in molecular biology for antibody detection, among other things. It is becoming increasingly important in biochemical research fields.

Some souvenirs I brought from a trip to Slovenia: hren. Photo: DLCS - DLCS Sunday Selection #1: Horseradish, mierikswortel, hren + wasabi

Hren

In Central and Eastern Europe horseradish is called khreyn (in various spellings like kren) in many Slavic languages, in Austria and parts of Germany and North-East Italy, and in Yiddish (כריין translitered askhreyn). It is popular in Ukraine (under the name of хрін, khrin), in Poland (under the name of chrzan), in Lithuania (krienai) in the Czech Republic (křen), in Russia (хрен, khren), in Hungary (torma), in Romania (hrean), in Bulgaria (хрян, khryan), and in Slovakia (under the name of chren). Having this on the table is a part of Christian Easter and Jewish Passover tradition in Eastern and Central Europe. Hren (often grated and mixed with cream, hard-boiled eggs, or apples) is also a traditional Easter dish in Slovenia and in the adjacent Italian region of Friuli Venezia Giulia; it is used also in the other nearby Italian region of Veneto. In Croatia freshly grated horseradish is often eaten with boiled ham or beef. In Serbia ren is an essential condiment with cooked meat and freshly roasted suckling pig.

As a form of folk medicine against cold, a teaspoonful of grated horseradish mixed with honey will clear one’s nose in a few minutes.

Wasabi

Wasabi is generally sold either as a root which is very finely grated before use, or as a ready-to-use paste in tubes similar to travel toothpaste tubes.[4] In restaurants the paste is prepared when the customer orders, and is made using a grater to grate the root; once the paste is prepared, it loses flavor in 15 minutes.[5] In sushi preparation, sushi chefs usually put the wasabi between the fish and the rice because covering wasabi until served preserves its flavor. Fresh wasabi leaves can be eaten, having the spicy flavor of wasabi roots. Wasabi is difficult to cultivate and that makes it quite expensive. Due to its high cost, a common substitute is a mixture of horseradish, mustard, and green food coloring. Outside of Japan, it is rare to find real wasabi plants. 
So, even though you thought you did, you may have never eaten actual wasabi! 

Wasabi stockphoto from Shutterstock - DLCS Sunday Selection #1: Horseradish, mierikswortel, hren + wasabi

Nutritional value wasabi

It is an excellent source of vitamin-C. At 41.9 mg per 100 g of this vitamin; it possesses nearly twice the amount that in horseradish (24.9 mg/100 g). Wasabi is a very good source of minerals such as potassium, manganese, iron, copper, calcium (128 mg/100 g), and magnesium. Potassium (568 mg per 100 g) is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps regulate heart rate and blood pressure. Also, the rhizome has average levels of essential vitamins such as folate, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid. Some of the volatile phytochemical compounds in this root stimulate salivary, gastric, and intestinal digestive enzymes secretion, and thereby facilitate smooth digestion.

Have you ever eaten horseradish? What is your favorite way of consuming it?
In one of my favorite restaurants in Slovenia I tried an amazing traditional hren with bread sauce. I tried to copy the recipe a couple of times, but didn’t manage yet (Tips?). Now after doing this research I’m excited to make Polish chrzan soup!