Armoracia rusticana. Horseradish is easy to grow and tough as nails. Like rhubarb, and some other perennial food plants, the goal when planting from seed is to allow the root stock to develop and become established before harvesting. The pungency of horseradish comes when its tissues are crushed. The plant’s natural defense against being eaten is exactly what we love about it – that sharp, pungent flavour and aroma that pairs so well with many savoury dishes. Raifort Champêtre horseradish seeds, or “country horseradish,” are a French heirloom type that is hardy from Zones 2-9. Asymmetrical, highly indented leaves emerge in spring, followed by pretty flowers that are attractive to bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. Unlike many of its cousins in the Brassica family, this plant has few predators, and it can be grown in full sun to partial shade. Its flavour is best after first frost or in early spring, before the first leaves emerge. The leaves are edible and have a similar flavour to the thick taproots. Horseradish grows to 1.5m (4.9′) tall.
You may have heard the widely held view that horseradish can only be grown from roots. Most horseradish is propagated clonally, by taking cuttings from one root to produce many plants. And this is a good way to propagate it, too. But horseradish rejects its own pollen, so when bees move pollen between genetically similar (clonal) plants, seed production is extremely weak. However, when genetically diverse horseradish plants are grown together, the pollen is not rejected by the flowers, so commercial seed production is possible. This means that the seeds themselves will show some genetic diversity, resulting in minor variations in flavour and heat levels from root to root. And if these genetically diverse plants are left to flower, they will potentially carry on and produce another generation of viable seeds. And so on.
Open pollinated seeds.
How to Grow Horseradish
Horseradish belongs in the perennial food garden. Once the plants are established, they can be harvested at any time of the year, and the flavour is particularly good in winter, when cold temperatures bring out a sweetness in the roots. Here’s our guide to how to grow horseradish from seeds:
Season & Zone
Season: Year round
Exposure: Full-sun to partial shade
Zone: 3 to 9
For first season harvests, start the seeds indoors in January to February and transplant out in April. The goal is to achieve large, fully established roots that can be divided and/or replanted. If time is not pressing, direct sow any time from March into summer. Optimal soil temperature: 7-23°C (45-75°F).
Sow seeds 5mm-1cm (¼-½”) deep in well cultivated, deep soiil. Seeds will sprout in 7-15 days, depending on conditions. Thin or transplant to 20cm (8″) apart in rows 40-50cm (16-20″) apart.
Ideal pH: 6.0-6.8. Well drained, warm soil in full sun is best. Raised beds help with both drainage and warmth. Use 1 cup of complete organic fertilizer for every 3m (10′) of row. Newly emerged leaves are edible, or should be left to mature if growing for the roots. The flower petals are also edible — flowers should be removed before they set seeds, as they will self-sow with enthusiasm.
For the leaves, harvest as needed, shortly after they emerge, before they become woody. For the roots, harvest November through March. The roots can also be lifted and stored for spring planting to keep the crop going from season to season.
Diseases & Pests
In our experience, insects do not cause problems for horseradish.
Horseradish is thought to repel aphids and whiteflies, blister beetles, potato beetles, and some varieties of caterpillar. Its flowers attract beneficial predatory hoverflies.
More on Companion Planting.
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