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Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana G. M. Sch.)


botanicalCochlearia armoracia, Armoracia lapathifolia
pharmaceuticalRadix Armoraciae
AlbanianRrikë, Rrapane
Arabicفجل حار
فِجْل حَار
Fajl haar
Xreni, Khreni
AzeriAdi xardal
Ади хардал
Bengaliমুলো বীজ
Mulo bij?
CatalanRave picant
辣根 [laaht gān]
Laaht gan
辣根 [là gēn]
La gen
CroatianVrtni hren
CzechKřen, Křen selský
DutchMierikswortel, Mierik, Boereradijs, Meredik, Kreno
EstonianAed-mädarõigas, Mädarõigas, Mädarõikaseemned
FrenchRaifort, Cranson de Bretagne, Cran
GaelicCàl-nan-each, Meacan-each
Georgianპირშუშხა, ხოხნოტა
Khokhnat’a, P’irshushkha, Pirshushkha, Pirshushxa, Xoxnata, Khokhnata
GermanKren, Meerrettich
GreekΑρμορακία, Χρένο
Armorakia, Chreno
Hebrewחזרת הגינה
חֲזֶרֶת הַגִּינָה
Hazeeret hagina, Hazeret
HungarianTorma, Közönséges torma
IrishRaidis fhiáin
ItalianBarbaforte, Cren, Rafano
Japanese西洋山葵, 山葵大根
せいようわさび, わさびだいこん
ワサビダイコン, ホースラディッシュ, セイヨウワサビ
Seiyō-wasabi, Seiyowasabi, Wasabi-daikon, Hosuradisshu
KazakhЖелкөк, Ақ желкек, Түбіртамыр
Jelkök, Aqjelkek, Tübirtamır
Korean겨자무, 홀스래디쉬, 호스래디쉬, 호스레디쉬
Kyo-jamu, Gyeo-jamu, Holsuraediswi, Hosuraediswi, Hosurediswi
LithuanianKrienas, Valgomasis krienas
MacedonianРен, Морско оревче
Ren, Morsko orevče
OssetianТуттургъан, Туттурхъан
Tutturghan, Tutturqan
PolishChrzan pospolity
PortugueseRaiz-forte, Rábano, Rabanete
ProvençalArrifouar, Rifouart
SerbianХрен, Рен
Hren, Ren
SlovakChren dedinský, Chren
SpanishTaramago, Rábano picante
TurkishYaban turbu, Bayır turpu
UkrainianХрін звичайний
Khrin zvychajnyj
VietnameseRen, Hren, Cây rau họ, Cây cải ngựa
Ren, Hren, Cay rau ho, Cay cai ngua

Armoracia rusticana: Horseradish root
Horseradish root
Used plant part

Root, nearly always used fresh or pickled.

Plant family

Brassicaceae (cabbage family).

Sensory quality

Intact horseradish root does not exhibit much aroma, but on cutting, shredding and especially grating, a pungent and lachrymatory, very strong odour is released. This odour is, however, not stable but vanishes after some ten or twenty minutes.

Japanese horseradish, also called wasabi, is nearly indistinguishable from horseradish in taste, but a little bit stronger. Since it is never used in sour sauces, it cannot be substituted by canned horseradish, but possibly by fresh one.

Armoracia rusticana: Horseradish flower
Horseradish flower
Main constituents

Horseradish root contains approx. 0.6% of glucosinolates; the most abundant of these are sinigrin (0.2%) and gluconasturtiin (0.1%). As soon as intact cells are damaged, these isothiocyanates are enzymatically hydrolyzed to yield allyl isothiocyanate and 2-phenylethyl isothiocyanate, respectively. See black mustard for biochemical details.

Further glucosinolates in horseradish are glucobrassicanapin and the indol-derived glucobrassicin (plus some closely related compounds like 4-methoxy glucobrassicin, 4-hydroxy glucobrassicin). On hydrolysis, glucobrassicanapin yields 4-pentenyl isothiocyanate; yet the glucobrassicines have no corresponding stable isothiocyanates. Instead, they hydrolyze to 3-hydroxyindole derivatives and free isothiocyanate ions.

Among the non-volatile constituents, one should mention flavone glycosides (quercetine, kaempferol) and particularly ascorbic acid, which is contained to 06% in horseradish root.


The plant is thought to be of Mediterranean or Eastern European origin, and is now widely cultivated in Central and Eastern Europe. It is commonly found wild, this is, escaped from cultivation.

Armoracia rusticana: Horseradish flower close-up
Horseradish flower close-up
Armoracia rusticana: Horseradish flower
Horseradish flower

German has two different words for horse­radish: Meer­rettich is preferred in the North, while Southern Germans and Austrians usually call the spice Kren, which is hardly understood in the North. Meer­rettich literally means more radish or greater radish, indicating the greater size (or the stronger aroma) of horseradish compared to garden radish (Raphanus sativus). The similarity of the first element of this name to German Meer sea is purely coincidental. A similar motivation is also found in French: The French name raifort is probably formed from radis fort strong radish.

The Southern German term Kren is a loan from a Slavonic tongue, where cognates of Kren are widespread (Czech křen, Sorbian krěn, Russian khren [хрен], Ukrainian khrin [хрін] and Polish chrzan) and ultimately of unknown origin. Some other non-Slavonic European languages have also borrowed that name, e. g., French cran, Italian cren, Yiddish khreyn [כרײן], Romanian hrean and Greek chreno [χρένο].

The English name horseradish is allegedly derived by misinterpretation of the German Meerrettich as mare radish (mare being the English term for a female horse, for those of other mother-tongues). On the other side, several English plant names contain an element horse to denote large or strong; if one adopted the theory that horseradish is of the same kind, the name would actually parallel German Meerrettich.

Armoracia rusticana: Horseradish flowers
Horseradish inflorescence
Armoracia rusticana: Flowering horseradish plant
Flowering horseradish plant
Armoracia rusticana: Flowering horseradish plants
Flowering horseradish plants

The word radish (or German Ret­tich, or French radis) itself derives from Latin radix root. At the basis lies a Proto-Indo–European­pean root WRED branch, root. The common element of plant names, -wort, has the same origin; see mugwort for more.

The Northern Germanic names of horseradish (e. g., Danish peberrod, Icelandic piparrót and Swedish pepparrot) mean pepper­root, being composed of the name of black pepper and an element cognate to English root, which is itself related to the former mentioned Latin radix. Finnish piparjuuri has the same meaning (juuri root). Note that in Modern Greek, a comparable name pepper root is used not for horseradish but for ginger. See long pepper for the etymology of pepper. An interesting variaton of that theme is the Uzbek name of horseradish, yerqalampir [ерқалампир], literally earth-paprika.

In Japanese, the horseradish bears names comparing it with the indigenous and popular spice wasabi: seiyō-wasabi [西洋わさび, セイヨウワサビ] Western wasabi and wasabi-daikon [わさびだいこん, ワサビダイコン] radish-wasabi. The similarity between the two spices is also emphasized by the many names of wasabi in Western languages that plainly signify Japanese horseradish

The origin of the botanical genus name Armoracia, which has been in use by European botanists for horseradish since the Middle Age, is dark; connections to the Celtic tribe of Armoricans have sometimes be claimed, but it is not easy to find a historic connection. The old genus name Cochlearia (scurvygrass) derives from the Classical Latin cochleare spoon, which has survived in medical terminology to this day. The reference seems to point at the leaves of some scurvygrass species, which are supposed to look similar to the special type of spoons used to administer medicines. The word is closely related to Latin cochlea snail’s shell suggesting that the Romans used shells as spoons. Cf. also Old Greek kochlias [κοχλίας] snail.

The botanical species name rusticanus rural, belonging to rus country-side, probably refers to the distribution of horseradish. The obsolete species name lapathifolius sorrel-leaved hints at the similar leaf shapes of horseradish and some large-leaved sorrel variants (e. g., Rumex patientia), which were known in Old Greek as lapathos [λάπαθος].

Selected Links

Indian Spices: Horseradish ( Ilkas und Ullis Kochecke: Meerrettich ( via A Pinch of Horseradish ( Sorting Armoracia names ( Medical Spice Exhibit: Horseradish Allylisothiocyanat Österreichische Küchensprache Poisonous Plants of North Carolina: Horseradish

Armoracia rusticana: Horseradish (flowering plant)
Horseradish (flowering plant)

Horseradish is a very popular spice in Central and Northern Europe, where the fresh root is grated and eaten together with cured ham or cooked or roasted meat (e. g., British roastbeef); at Easter time, cured ham with horseradish is a traditional meal in Austria. Since the aroma is so volatile and instable, the tearful process of grating must be repeated several times during the meal. Horseradish preservatives, usually grated and tinned root with a few stabilizing additions, are available, but true lovers of the root think them inferior, though much more convenient.

The pungent allyl isothiocyanate is not heat resistant; therefore, horseradish is only seldom used for warm foods and then added immediately before serving. Even in cold water, allyl isothiocyanate is not stable for longer than a few minutes. However, in sour environment the hydrolysis of thiocyanates takes place much more slowly.

In Austria, freshly grated horseradish (or tinned product) is frequently mixed with grated apples (sour varieties preferred, otherwise some lemon juice is needed) and then eaten as a spicy relish to fried or cooked meat. This mixture (Apfelkren) can be stored for about one day without substantial loss in pungency. To prevent darkening of the apples (enzymatic oxidation of phenolic compounds by oxygen), the apples may shortly steamed before mashing them; this won’t much affect the flavour but gives a softer, smoother texture.

For a comparison of different pungent spices, see negro pepper.

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