Or The plant that knew no boundaries …
The unseasonal high temperatures – 12C with five days to go until Christmas – left me no excuse to delay the inevitable any further. Today I had to dig out the horseradish.
I only meant to grow the fiery roots once, back in 2014. But despite thinking I’d dug them all out a year ago, they came back for a second season. You’re meant to lift horseradish around October but I hoped that leaving it until now might somehow weaken it.
Occupying half of one of the small raised beds, the leaves were certainly dead and starting to rot into the soil.
Clearing the leaves away I was stunned to see new growth. The high temperatures seem to have fooled the plant into thinking it’s spring again and it’s started a new growth cycle. When you’re trying to eradicate a very pervasive plant, that’s not exactly what you want to see.
Digging away at the soil revealed the root structure. I discarded lots of thin, spindly roots. Any single one of those is enough for the horseradish to re-establish itself. Underneath each of those new green shoots on the surface was a thick root and I cut those out as carefully as possible.
It was quickly clear that some roots had dug themselves into the clay base which this neighbourhood sits on and out beyond the footprint of the raised bed. That’s quite problematic as they’ve gone under the lawn in one direction, the patio in another, and heading towards next door’s garden in another. This is going to require another digging session.
Meanwhile, there was a nice crop to bring in. Washed up, the horseradish was healthy and clean. I tasted a little and yes, it’s good and fiery. It’s different from chillis, in that there’s no flavour behind the heat. It’s just pure, eye-watering pungency.
I learned last year that peeling and slicing them lets the heat quickly evaporate, so this time I bagged them up intact and put them straight into the freezer.
Despite the troublesome nature of the plant, I couldn’t help admiring the roots and resolved to make a traditional horseradish sauce to go with Christmas dinner a few days from now. To be honest I don’t know what else to do with them. The internet isn’t exactly overflowing with horseradish recipes.
One of the few remaining things still harvestable this month was a couple of mini Igloo cauliflowers. People so often discard the leaves that grow around caulis, but they make a delicious green if you shred them and season them well.
I boiled the curds, sautéed the leaves and mixed them into a white sauce with grated cheddar cheese. A few minutes under the grill and out popped two mini cauliflower cheeses. Great in the Le Creuset ramekins I got earlier in the year.
There are also a good few pounds of Maris Piper potatoes left in store. Despite being kept in the dark and cool of the garage, they’ve started to sprout (I wonder whether to try and keep some going till spring to plant as seed potatoes). But the sprouts are easy to knock off and then they’re perfect for peeling and cooking.
Last night they joined some freshly picked rosemary and sage and a couple of cloves of this summer’s garlic to accompany some lamb fillet.
The starter beforehand was homemade Thai crab cakes, served on a lettuce and celery soup I made and froze months ago and topped with a Medina chilli. That worked quite well.
And there was an out-of-season lunch today. Out of the freezer came a bag of the autumn-picked broad beans and some roasted tigerella tomatoes.
With a bit of goats cheese and basil, piled onto toasted panini, it was just like late summer again. Which is a bit like the weather actually. Salad and ice cream for Christmas dinner anyone?