Horseradish root is larger than an ordinary radish, and has a hot, peppery flavour.
It's more likely to be eaten as a condiment, which can be found in varying degrees of heat. Like mustard and chilli, too much heat will overpower the flavours and quality of the meat, fish or other main ingredient in your dish.
The fresh root is in season between spring and autumn, but imported roots can be found in specialist shops all year round. Commercial horseradish sauces are also widely available.
Choose the best
Fresh horseradish should be firm and have no green or tender parts. Roots can grow up to 25cm long, so they are often cut into smaller pieces; the cut ends shouldn't show any signs of mould.
Commercial horseradish products should be used within the 'use by' date, and free from unnecessary additives.
The finer the horseradish root is chopped, the more powerful the level of heat will be. If you're preparing more than a small amount, ensure your kitchen is well ventilated to avoid discomfort to your nose and eyes.
The traditional English way to make a horseradish sauce is to plunge the prepared root immediately into white vinegar, drain, then fold into whipped cream, soured cream, yogurt, or crème fraîche. A little grated garlic is recommended to give a more rounded flavour to the sauce.
It can also be stirred into freshly grated beetroot or roasted beetroot – just add vinegar to keep both the beetroot red and the horseradish viable.
Fresh horseradish should be stored in the fridge in a sealed plastic bag with a sprinkling of water. For freezer storage, it should be grated and stored in small quantities.
Homemade horseradish sauce will keep for up to three days in the fridge. After that, it may start to turn brown and the flavour will deteriorate.
A creamy horseradish sauce is often served alongside roast beef, but it can also be added to seafood sauces, or stirred into mashed potatoes and served alongside roast beef or oxtail stew.
The combination of horseradish and beetroot is a Polish favourite, and imported versions are increasingly available.
You can also give a Bloody Mary cocktail some extra zing with a small amount of horseradish.