We love to feel the burn.
Hot radishes open our sinuses and conquer our colds. They stimulate the appetite and make mouths water. Prime rib and sushi wouldn’t be the same without them.
Horseradish, daikon and wasabi — the most popular of the hot radishes — all contain allyl isothiocyanate, which stimulates our noses as well as our tongues. (Mustard and mustard seed have this compound, too.) Although ingesting too much can be painful, this compound also makes us feel warm.
“I am lucky in that I rarely catch a cold or have congestion issues, but I would go straight for the horseradish or wasabi if I did,” said Terri Gilliland, who owns Lucky Dog Ranch in Dixon, Calif., with her husband, Ron.
On their ranch the Gillilands raise their own all-natural beef. Horseradish is an indispensable condiment with roasts.
“My favorite part of having prime rib is the horseradish,” Gilliland said.
“Prepared” horseradish — the stuff that comes in a jar — is a mix of fresh grated horseradish preserved with vinegar and seasoned with a little salt and a dash of sugar. To make your own, use 1 cup grated fresh horseradish root to 1/2 cup white, rice or wine vinegar, then season to taste. It will keep in the refrigerator for weeks.
Horseradish also spices up sauces and mashed potatoes. It’s been part of American cuisine since the first colonists. Pioneers brought it to California. Back in Sacramento’s Gold Rush days, Mark Twain likely enjoyed it grated on fresh oysters.
Wasabi, a treasured delicacy in Japan for more than 1,000 years, is a more recent Western transplant. Wasabi — or wasabi substitute — has become as prevalent in flavorings as its Western cousin, horseradish.
The two are closely related, both members of the cabbage or mustard family. Wasabi is often referred to as “Japanese horseradish.” Likewise, horseradish is known in Japan as “Western wasabi.” Because wasabi is so expensive, horseradish is often substituted for real green wasabi.
While horseradish is an edible root, true wasabi is made from the plant’s rhizomelike stem. It is a tricky herb to grow, native to the banks of ice-cold mountain creeks with its roots constantly bathed in chilly running water. Horseradish is far less finicky. Harvested year-round, it’s sweetest and most available in winter and early spring.
Meanwhile, daikon is a dependable (and delicious) workhorse. This oversize radish works well as a salad or root vegetable, tasty raw or cooked.
“Daikon, peeled, is just like a breakfast radish,” said Suzanne Ashworth of Del Rio Botanical in Sacramento, Calif. “But with the peel it is spicy.”
Almost everyone remembers the first time they tried horseradish, wasabi or daikon. That moment usually came with taste bud alarms.
Gilliland recalled her first taste nearly 30 years ago: “I thought the green stuff on the appetizer plate was avocado and ate the whole spoonful in one bite. It was wasabi, and I thought I was going to die. I had to run to the ladies’ room to splash cold water on my face just for some relief. Ron, of course, thought the whole thing was hysterical.”
Orange and Radish Salad With Pistachios
New York Times
- 2 blood oranges (about 1/2 pound)
- 2 medium navel oranges (about 1 pound)
- Fleur de sel or coarse sea salt, to taste
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint, plus more for garnish
- 6 ounces radishes, about 1 cup thinly sliced
- 4 ounces daikon radish (about 1/3 medium-sized daikon), thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon agave nectar
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or more to taste
- Pinch cayenne
- 2 tablespoons roasted pistachio oil (or olive oil)
- 1/4 cup lightly toasted unsalted pistachios (about 1 ounce)
Peel oranges, remove pith and cut into rounds. Add fleur de sel and mint; toss.
Place radish and daikon slices in separate bowl and sprinkle with fleur de sel.
Whisk together lemon juice, agave, cinnamon, cayenne and oil. Divide evenly among the two bowls with oranges and radishes, and toss.
Use a slotted spoon to lift oranges from juices that accumulate in bowl and arrange, with radishes, on a platter. Just before serving, spoon on the juices and dressing left behind in bowl, and top with pistachios and mint. Serves 4.
Hot Tomato Relish
Del Rio Botanical, Sacramento, Calif.
- 18 pounds tomatoes, cored and chopped
- 8 onions, peeled and chopped
- 6 bell peppers, seeded and chopped
- 3/4 pound horseradish, finely grated
- 4 cups cider vinegar
- 1-1/4 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup coarse noniodized salt
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
Mix all ingredients. Pack into sterile quart jars, seal and refrigerate. Makes about 8 quarts.
Horseradish and Dill Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes
- 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 tablespoon dried dill
- 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 2 tablespoons bottled horseradish
- Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Place potatoes in large pot. Add enough water to cover potatoes by 1 inch. Bring to boil over high heat, then lower temperature to medium-high to maintain a low boil. Cook until tender, about 25 minutes.
During final 5 to 10 minutes, in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine butter, cream and dill. Once butter melts, mix well and set aside.
Drain potatoes. Return to pot and mash.
Use an electric mixer, whisk or masher to lightly beat potatoes. Mix in butter and cream mixture, then cream cheese and horseradish. Season with salt and pepper. Serves 6.
Nutritional information unavailable.