4 jars of pickled-beet and horseradish are on a wooden table with a statue of St. Francis behind them.

Preparing Horseradish for Easter is a family tradition that we have carried on from my late Polish Grandfather. In our family it is simply referred to as "horseradish" even though it is very clearly BRIGHT PURPLE. Our Horseradish is a mixture of pickled beets and horseradish. The Polish word for this mixture (beet horseradish) is known aΔ†wikΕ‚a (cheek-wa). We just call it horseradish. 

Horseradish is part of our Holy Week tradition and it's extra special that we are able to grow it on small farm. I love growing horseradish because it thrives wherever we put it. Many of the roots that we have originated from a couple plants from my late grandfather's garden. It was prolific on their farm and I remember it planted across the property from typical garden beds to a valley at the bottom of a hill. We have planted it in many different spots across our own property and it continues to do well no matter where we place it. The great thing about the horseradish plant is that you can continue to replant the tops (and you should!) whenever you harvest the roots. A lot of what you will read online suggests that you harvest the root in the fall, however, we always do it in the spring. I don't think it affects the plants too much other than needing additional time to mature before the next harvest. 

When we first moved in, I gave jars away to our neighbors as a thanks for the warm welcome we received! Today, I set a jar out for a neighbor who was dropping off a few plants for me and she expressed excitement and told me they had just been talking about the horseradish the other day. It's fun to share our garden with our friends but especially during Holy Week! 

The first year we moved in, I planted a few tops in a side garden bed by the back garage door. We decided that this probably wasn't the best location since it is very close to our storm shelter entrance and we use that area for storage throughout the year, so the following year we moved it. The root was large and I had a lot of difficulty getting it out of the ground and ended up breaking the root. In doing so, we have had volunteer plants in this location every year since. Now the majority of our plants are located on a small hill adjacent to our property line where mainly only weeds are growing. The plants on our hill are relatively small and not yet mature; we split the tops and harvested a good bit last spring so they weren't ready to be harvested this year. Last summer the volunteer plant by the back door was nearly three feet tall so I knew that we would have at least one good-sized root to harvest in time for Easter. The plants go dormant in the winter but right around the beginning to middle of March they begin to emerge again so you can easily find them. 

three green horseradish tops poke through a very messy and weed-filled garden bed

When digging up the horseradish root, it's important to be mindful of the top of the plant and not damage it so that you can easily replant it. As you can see from the picture, the plant doesn't require a lot (any) attention- there are lots of weeds and grass along the side of the house and the horseradish continues to thrive. This particular root had three plants starting off the top (last year it was just one!) so this is a great example of how it multiplies and can be so prolific. This root was pretty well stuck so Ben helped me get it out.

Once the root is out of the ground, you will cut the top(s) off to be replanted. The sooner you can get the tops back in the soil, the more likely they will survive, however we have waited as long as a week to get them back in the dirt and they made a comeback. On a side note, if you are in the produce section of the grocery store and they have horseradish, sometimes you can find roots that still have the tops on them. We have successfully replanted tops from roots we have found at Meijer in years where our own plants weren't yet mature. 

The three tops of the horseradish plant have been replanted into the cleared garden bed.
We immediately replanted the three tops and will likely move at least a couple of them once we have our summer gardens set up. 

Because it is the root you are eating, you will need to wash the soil off the root and peel it. After clogging our utility sink in years past (whoops) I decided to use the hose and a bristle brush and it worked fine. The horseradish root is a golden brown color once clean. Peeling it outside also prevented me from tearing up too bad! 

a hand is holding the golden brown horseradish root above a plate of a white, peeled root.

A glass patio table has a cutting board, knife, peeled horse radish, safety goggles, a food processor, and jars of pickled beets

Horseradish produces allyl isothiocyanate (essentially mustard gas) when you cut or shred it so it is best to prepare it in a well ventilated area. In years past, I have worn lab safety goggles and my mom told me she wore a mask this year, hello 2021! Because our son is only eight months old, our house isn't that big, and we were having a great weather weekend, I decided to prepare it outside. It was so much easier and went a lot quicker because my sinuses and eyes were not being assaulted. 

a food processor that has a cup or two of grated horseradish inside

Our food processor has a pretty permanent horseradish scent to it... so we now have a designated food processor that I use almost exclusively for horseradish. I ran an extension cord to our patio table and got to work! 

Four cups of grated horseradish in an open food processorA bowl contains the contents of the previous picture, about four cups of grated horseradish

First, I chopped the large root into smaller chunks so that the food processor could handle it. Once shredded, we add chopped pickled beets to the mixture. I canned and pickled a bunch of beets last spring at the start of the pandemic and still had three jars left to use for our horseradish this year. 

              a half pint jar of pickled beets, purple with a label 'pickled beets 3-31-20'                 

I ended up adding a lot of the pickled beet juice to the mixture because this root was HOT. Finishing off the process, the beets and horseradish are combined in the food processor then divided into cans. 

A food processor contains the purple mixture of the pickled beets and grated horseradish

I do not seal/can these because they are typically eaten during Holy Week and the canning process/heat would affect the horseradish flavor. It made four half-pint jars and we will eat it with eggs, pierogi, kielbasa, and ham on Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. 

a close up of the four purple jars containing the pickled beet and horseradish mixture on a wooden table


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