Have you ever wondered why horseradish is called horseradish? Is it because horses eat it? That’s what I thought. After all, horses eat horse parsley (Alexanders), so why not horseradish. But this is not the case. Indeed, horseradish is poisonous for horses. So, what has it got to do with horses?
The word exists in English since the 16th century and some dictionaries claim that the name arises from the shape of the root (which is the bit we eat). It is said that the root resembled “horse’s genitalia”. However, another probable reason for the naming of the root is that in German, it’s called meerrettich (sea radish) because it grows by the sea (though sea radish is a different plant).
Some say that the English mispronounced the German word meer and started calling it mareradish, as in an adult female horse. The word horse also used to mean strong or coarse. Eventually it became known as horseradish. Long before people ate horseradish root, it was used (as was rhubarb) for medical purposes. As far back as 1,500 BC, the Egyptians used it for ailments such as sore joints. So how did we jump from rubbing this root into the small of our backs to putting it in sauces and mashed potatoes?
How to make sheep’s yoghurt horseradish sauce for beef, fish and oysters
From the late 17th century, horseradish began to accompany beef, fish and oysters. To make a wonderful fresh horseradish sauce, grate 15g of horseradish into a tablespoon of cold pressed rapeseed oil. Fold this into 150g of sheep’s yoghurt. Season with the juice of a lemon and some salt. Serve with roast beef, a piece of poached fish or spoon on to a freshly shucked native oyster.