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Horseradish - Armoracia rusticana

Horseradish - Armoracia rusticana

Main features

  • Tall dock-like leaves emerging from the ground to 1m

  • Found in grassland that has previously been disturbed, such as farmland, roadsides, grass verges, railway embankments, and gardens

  • Leaves shiny with a wavy-toothed edge

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Horseradish - Armoracia rusticana

Edible plant - novice

Other common names: Red Cole


Scientific name meaning: Armoracia is the Latin name for the plant, while rusticana means "of the country, rural"

Season Spring to Autumn

Habitat - where will I find it? Well established in Britain, Horseradish is an ancient introduction and a native of Asia 

Description - what does it look like? Horseradish has tall dock-like leaves reaching to 1m from the ground. The leaves are shiny and have a wavy-toothed edge. Its flower stalk has many inflorescence of white cruciform flowers (four petals arranged in a cross formation). 

When crushed, the leaves give off the smell of Horseradish

Possible lookalikes Many of the Docks (Rumex) genus could be easily mistaken for Horseradish. However, no Docks have the odour of Horseradish. In addition, Horseradish's leaves are shiny, unlike the matt leaves of dock, and have a distinct wavy-toothed edged, which the Docks lack.

Use as a food The young leaves of Horseradish have a good strong flavour and can be eaten raw or cooked. However, the root, which is best harvested in early winter, is the most used. It is strongly flavoured and traditionally used to make Horseradish sauce

Use in herbal medicine Horseradish has many uses in herbalism including to treat skin redness, digestive disorders, constipation, chest infections, pleurisy, infections, arthritis, chilblains, muscle soreness, and urinary tract infections. 

It has also been used as a diuretic, antiseptic and expectorant. Research is being undertaken into potential anti-tumour properties.

It can cause blistering if applied to the skin so caution is advised.

If you are suffering from any ailment or need medical advice, please see your General Practitioner

Other uses A solution made from the root can be used to treat fungal diseases, such as brown rot in apples. As a companion plant, Horseradish is used to deter potato eelworm

Hazards Horseradish contains volatile oils and can be poisonous if eaten in large quantities.

Those who are pregnant or lactating, or suffering with hepatitis, acid reflux, thyroid disorders, hyperacidity and inflammatory bowel disorders, should avoid consumption of large quantities of Horseradish

Importance to other species Provides a food source for pollinators and the larvae of some butterflies

Things to note Under the Theft Act, Horseradish root cannot be harvested without permission from the landowner (this includes common land) as it involves digging up the plant

Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!

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