True Horseradish Seed
Improvement status: Breeding population
Seeds per packet: ~50
Germination tested 11/2020: 5% (below standard)
Life cycle: Perennial
EFN EXCLUSIVE. Horseradish is propagated almost exclusively by dividing roots of existing clones, of which there exist just a few. True horseradish seed is practically a legend. In 1914, the famed plant breeder Luther Burbank wrote: "The horseradish does, indeed, bloom with the greatest profusion. But the blossoms prove sterile. The plant has entirely and probably forever lost the power of producing seed. I have elsewhere … [made] a joking offer of one thousand dollars an ounce for horseradish seed. Of course I knew that no horseradish seeds were to be had, yet I would gladly have given then, and I would glad pay, at the rate of $1000 an ounce for horseradish seed. But there is not the remotest probability that any one will ever legitimately claim the prize." For some perspective, $1000 in 1914 is the equivalent of around $26,000 today! Well, Luther, you may be long gone, but we are thrilled to announce that we are selling honest-to-goodness horseradish seed!
We received these seeds from Austin Jones in Colorado. In 2016, Austin started 13 horseradish plants from true horseradish seed, and 10 of them lived. The plants have never been disturbed or dug up, and they have been reliably producing seed for Austin. We suspect that because these plants were propagated from true seed, and there is some diversity in his patch, they are more likely to produce viable true seed themselves. Our germination test found just 5% of the seed germinated, but we are hopeful these seeds will germinate more readily in actual soil or seed-starting mix, compared to our germination chamber. At any event, with 50 seeds per packet, we hope you will get at least a few plants, and perhaps down the road you will produce your own seed! If you ever do, please get in touch!
Horseradish is a cabbage-family (Brassicaceae) perennial known for its sinus-clearing spiciness. The grated roots, often prepared with vinegar and sometimes beets, are a staple condiment in many European cuisines. We recently found a preparation with cranberries that was excellent! EFN co-founder Nate Kleinman considers horseradish to be an ancestral food, as it features prominently in some major Eastern European Jewish dishes, particularly associated with the Passover holiday (it is the quintessential "bitter herb" of the seder plate, and few people enjoy gefilte fish without it!). The leaves are also edible, and have much of the same flavor as the roots, plus a bit of bitterness. Horseradish also has a long history of medicinal use, including against urinary tract infections, kidney stones, fluid retention, infections of the respiratory tract, cough, rheumatism, gallbladder disorders, sciatic nerve pain, gout, colic, and intestinal worms. Our friend Kass McKinnon of Cultivating the Commons says that mineral-rich horseradish tincture is best made with a relatively low level of alcohol (around 30%), unlike many other herbal preparations.