Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Ukrainian Super Food - Horseradish! Хрін

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If you have ever been in a Ukrainian home, you quickly recognize the beet relish made with horseradish as a favourite! This special condiment is served often, in so many different ways. But more about that later.

Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) хрін  is a wonder food. It is a perennial plant originating in south-eastern Europe (Ukraine area?) related to cabbage and mustard, and has some similar qualities, but interestingly enough, recently received attention for its cancer-fighting compounds. Glucosinates increase the liver's ability to detoxify carcinogens and may support the suppression of tumor growth. Horseradish has up to 10 times more of this wonderful compound (the stuff that gives it the hot taste) than broccoli.

Horseradish has a centuries long tradition. A tea brewed from its flowers can help fight the common cold, root tea makes an expectorant, root mash can treat joint pain, raw leaves are a natural analgesic, and the ancients pressed leaves on the forehead to eliminate a headache. Horseradish infusion is known to have antibiotic properties against certain fungi.

Not a scientist, I can attest to horseradish's appeal, especially when I am under the weather. It just calls out to me! I have been known to take the horseradish and ground beet mixture straight, or heaped on breakfast toast. The juice does wonders on my sinuses and throat. My body seems to know it is good for me. My insides thank me too. If it happens to eliminate cancerous tumors, or whatever therapeutic power it has, I am so blessed to have loved it for itself first. It tastes great. Maybe if I get in the habit of eating it often, as my ancient family must have done, it will help me stay healthy a long time. Hope so!

Horseradish isn't hard to grow.  All over Calgary, in back alleys and hidden behind fences or in wild places no-one cares for, some industrious acolyte has planted a little slip of horseradish - and it has grown to giant size.  It is resistant to low temperatures, and droughts.  It grows well in shade, in warm areas, and places rich in humus.  It can grow two metres tall!  It can be really annoying though if you plant it in a domestic plot because it is almost impossible to remove.  It has a tap root that grows forever.

If you have horseradish in sight, you can harvest the leaves, the stem, the roots - oh so many uses!

Try this beet and horseradish relish! Буряки з хроном  4 cups ground cooked beets, 3/4 cups ground horseradish, 1 tablespoon salt, 1/2 cup sugar and 2 cups vinegar.  Combine the ingredients and seal in jars.  You can vary the amount of horseradish according to taste.  (It is best to grind the horseradish the old fashioned way with a meat grinder, but you can also chop the pulpy bits into pieces and process in a food processor or blender.)

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