The Jew And The Carrot

Getting to the 'Root' of Horseradish

By Ilana Schatz

  • Print
  • Share Share
JS online

My usual preparation for Passover entails reading and contemplating a lot (did I say “a lot”?) about the meaning of freedom and liberation; gratitude for the myriad ways I am blessed to experience it daily, and pondering the responsibilities it imposes on me to help free others less fortunate. I also focus on “cleaning out the chametz” theme by getting back to basics about the food I put into my body - everything I eat is homemade, not processed or packaged.

I often get bored by the fourth day and have been hungry for new recipes. This year, the timing was right and I was lucky to attend a Vegan Passover Cooking class with our favorite vegan chef, Philip Gelb in Oakland, CA. The dish that particularly drew my attention was “Roasted Beets with Horseradish and Basil”.

Growing up in the 1950’s, convenience food was the norm. So I only knew about jarred horseradish (white or with beet juice to make it red), until I attended a friend’s Seder a few years ago and asked “What’s that funny looking thing on the Seder plate?” . Only then did I learn that horseradish is the root of a perennial plant of the Brassicaceae family (including broccoli, cabbage, kale, mustard). The intact horseradish root has hardly any aroma. But when cut or grated, enzymes from the now-broken plant cells break down to produce a chemical (allyl isothiocyanate), which is actually mustard oil. This is what irritates the mucous membranes of the sinuses and eyes and makes us cry and cough. Once exposed to air (via grating) or heat, if not used immediately or mixed in vinegar, the grated mash darkens, loses its pungency, and becomes unpleasantly bitter-tasting.

While Ashkenazi Jews use horseradish on Passover to symbolize the suffering of our people under Egyptian slavery (many Sephardim use green onions), it also has a long medicinal and culinary history. Early Greeks used it as a rub to relieve low back pain, as well as an aphrodisiac. Made into syrup, it’s also been used as an expectorant cough medicine. In the 1600’s horseradish became the standard accompaniment for beef (and oysters) among the English. In fact, they grew it an inns and coach stations to make cordials that would revive exhausted travelers.

Early settlers brought horseradish to North American and began cultivating it in the colonies, so much so that it grew wild near Boston by 1840. The first commercial cultivation here began in the mid 1850’s, when horseradish farms were started by immigrants in the Midwest, leading to a thriving industry on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River.

So, now that we’ve learned about its history, let’s make something delicious with that horseradish leftover from the Seder plate!

Roasted Beets with Horseradish (recipe by Philip Gelb)
Ingredients:
3 medium beets
1/4 cup grated horseradish
1/4 cup shredded basil leaves
1-2 Tbs. olive oil
Sea salt

Directions:
1) Cut the beets into small, bite size pieces. Sprinkle them with sea salt and olive oil, cover and roast in a pre-heated oven at 425 degrees for about 35 minutes, or until slightly caramelized and soft.

2) While the beets are roasting, grate the horseradish and shred or finely cut the fresh basil.

3)Mix the horseradish, basil and olive oil. Coat the beets with this mixture after they are roasted.
Note: the horseradish flavor (and effect) increases over time!

Want to know even more about Horseradish?
Did you know that …
• Horseradish is still planted and harvested mostly by hand?
• Sales of bottled horseradish began in 1860, making it one of the first convenience foods?
• In the American South, horseradish was rubbed on the forehead to relieve headaches? (Some folks still swear by it.)
• Horseradish is added to some pickles to add firmness and “nip”?
• Before being named “horseradish,” the plant was known as “redcole” in England and as “stingnose” in some parts of the U.S.?
• Horseradish has only 2 calories a teaspoon, is low in sodium and provides dietary fiber?
• Researchers at M.I.T. claim that the enzyme “horseradish peroxidase” removes a number of pollutants from waste water?
• The most widely recognized horseradish fan in the world may be Dagwood Bumstead, who consumed it regularly in the popular comic strip, “Blondie,” by Dean Young and Stan Drake?
• Germans still brew horseradish schnapps … . some also add it to their beer?
• Al Weider earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records by tossing a horseradish root 80.5 feet to win that event?

Ilana Schatz is the founding director of Fair Trade Judaica, www.fairtradejudaica.org. She lives in El Cerrito, CA and loves to hike, restore their backyard to its original oak tree habitat, and make wine and liqueur from the eight plum trees in their garden.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Vegan, Passover recipes, Kosher for Passover

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • “People at archives like Yad Vashem used to consider genealogists old ladies in tennis shoes. But they have been impressed with our work on indexing documents. Now they are lining up to work with us." This year's Jewish Genealogical Societies conference took place in Utah. We got a behind-the-scenes look:
  • What would Maimonides say about Warby Parker's buy-one, give-one charity model?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.