Comic book character Dagwood Bumstead loved it on his huge sandwiches. It’s the bitter herb of seder tables at Passover. And, it was considered an aphrodisiac in the ancient world.
Horseradish (or “sting nose” as it was known in early America) is a root vegetable, largely planted and harvested by hand, that has played a part in human cuisine since early people hunted and gathered it. Known for its nip and heat, horseradish root is generally grated and mixed with vinegar to make a spicy sauce for sandwiches, beef and seafood; especially cocktail sauce for dipping shrimp.
A member of the mustard family of veggies, the nip of horseradish comes from a compound called isothiocyanate that emits a bite when it hits air and saliva. There is no aroma or bite when horseradish is harvested and grated, but when the root is crushed, the spicy compound is released. Vinegar is added to the crushed root to stop the oxidization and stabilize the flavor. Even the leaves of the horseradish are edible, although they are rarely prepared as a dish.
According to the Horseradish Information Council, about 6 million gallons of prepared horseradish are produced annually in the U.S., seasoning enough for sandwiches that would wrap 12 times around the globe.
For a zesty change of pace, try prepared horseradish on grilled ham and cheese sandwiches and cheeseburgers. Add a dash to deviled eggs.
But its main use is in sauces. Here’s a recipe from horseradish.org that will spice up French fries, onion rings and any sandwich.
Texas Tulip Dip
1 cup mayonnaise
6 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
Juice of 2 limes
1 to 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1-1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Mix mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, lime juice, prepared horseradish, black pepper, dry mustard and garlic powder in a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour into a small container and cover. Allow flavors to meld for 1 to 2 hours in the refrigerator. Makes about 1-1/2 cups. Serve with French fries, onion rings or sandwiches.