Horseradish, wasabi, mustard…all of these cause that distinctive sharpness in your nose. There’s a reason that they have a similar reaction.
The long white root we call horseradish, like wasabi, is from the Brassica family of plants (as well as broccoli, cabbage and Brussel sprouts). Mustard shares the same pungent oils with the horseradish and both have been used historically for medicinal means.
Bile is crucial in helping us digest fats and eliminating cholesterol and other wastes from the body. Horseradish acts as a cholagogue agent, meaning it stimulates the gallbladder to release bile.
Recent research points towards problems with our gallbladder as a possible starting point when looking at poor digestion and absorption.
It contains an active ingredient called allylisothiocyanate, which is released from glucosinolates in the plant when it is cut, to protect itself by repelling animals and other pests. This compound is a powerful antibacterial ingredient and recent research has found it to protect against E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Listeria and other pathogens found in foods.
Historically horseradish has been used for its gastronomic qualities. Native to eastern Europe, this bitter food has been adopted by the Egyptians, the early Greeks, Scandinavians, the English and later brought to North America.
It has been popularly used to revive weary travellers, as a cough expectorant, added to smelling salts, in the treatment of whooping cough or use to get rid of a cough following the flu.
Beetroot and Horseradish Sauce
This recipe is traditionally served at the Jewish Passover meal with fish, but can be used with other dishes.
Coat 3-4 small beetroots, roasted and diced, with a dressing of 1/2 cup olive oil and 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar.
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped and sautéed red onion
1/4 cup yoghurt
1/3 cup freshly grated horseradish (or double if using dried horseradish)
Blend in a food processor or quality blender and enjoy with fish, meat or vegetarian dishes.