Is it possible that a spicy root like horseradish has a gift in store for us beyond just the sauces, flavorings, and sinus cleansing properties it is well known for?
Anyone one who has grown horseradish is familiar with the vigorous nature of this plant. I’ve had a healthy crop in my own backyard for the last several years, and it is likely I’ll never be without it again. The vigorous rooting and spreading of the horseradish plant is considered beautiful to some gardeners and a nuisance to others.
November is a great time to discover the hidden glory of this persevering plant. The roots are ready to be dug up after a hard freeze in the fall to reveal just how much growth has occurred over the past 12 months. After I removed the frost killed leaves I was absolutely amazed at the rooting depth of my horseradish. Honestly I couldn’t even get to the bottom of the longest root, but after a healthy time of digging I was able to unearth a plump root of approximately 2.5 feet to 3 feet in length!
This root went right into my kitchen to be put to use and did not disappoint. Once the root is cut or grated, the enzymes of the plant go into action and produce allyl isothiocyanate (mustard oil), which irritates the mucous membranes of the sinuses and eyes. This chemical reaction, which is how the plant defends itself in nature, actually becomes a productive feature in the kitchen and throughout history has even been considered medicinal in many cultures. It was certainly medicinal for me; I don’t think my sinuses have ever been clearer.
But where horseradish shines and has interesting implications for us people who find ourselves in the middle of a year with a pandemic, politics, and many personal proclivities is in its ability to persevere, grow deeply, and remain inwardly and productively potent -almost as if the suffering and adversity is driving its growth.
I rarely give my horseradish much care, yet each fall I unearth the same deep and reformed roots from the small root pieces left over and replanted from the previous fall. Amazingly within 12 months these root fragments find a way to grow to their full potential and potency in the less than ideal conditions they are forced to endure.
There is absolutely a truth found here for those curious and present enough to see and observe it. In many ways 2020 has been a year of much less than the ideal. There has been intense adversity and loss for the majority of people I know. This is a time when horticulture and the plant world could and should be a ‘go to’ for us.
Could it be true that the human spirit can also grow deeply and in its productive potency through adversity and suffering? I think so. Horseradish does it by nature, but we humans have a choice in it and that is where we must start. A choice to rethink or have new thoughts may be in order, a decision to notice and open up an invitation that has been sitting in my life for some time unseen or not responded to. Horseradish grows deeply and with potency right where it is placed, it simply can’t change the soil (circumstances) it is given. I argue that people have the same ability and our world simply needs more of these deep and potent people.