The word horseradish is derived from the German word for “sea radish”, since it grows in coastal areas in Europe. Although horseradish (Amorica rusticana) does not fulfill the criteria of being an aromatic or exotic herb for use in cooking, it can be classified along with mustard, garlic and onion as a pungent condiment. However, despite its popularity for garnishing meat dishes, and some forms of prepared fish, it is rarely incorporated as a basic flavor component in any cooked dish. In distinction to mustard, it has not been regarded as having an affinity for being combined with wine, although it was formerly used as a “pick-me-up” in beer. The origin of horseradish may have been Russia, but it has spread widely; in the U.S.A. it was formerly grown mainly in the Midwest, but now about 40% of the country’s supply comes from around Tule Lake in northern California.The related wasabi, which has a fiery taste comparable to horseradish mixed with mustard, originated in Japan; much is now grown in New Zealand and in Oregon. The spice continues to be used mainly as an accompanying condiment for sashimi and sushi, or as a snack flavor. It is common experience that oral intake of wasabi or horseradish constitutes the best therapy for sinusitis and nasal congestion.The common radish is still regarded as a pungent salad vegetable rather than a spice. It is of interest that radish seedlings contain S-carboxymethyl-cysteine, which is marketed as a synthetic mucolytic in Europe. Allyl isothiocyanate (“allyl mustard oil”) is the major chemical produced by horseradish and mustard; several other related sulfur compounds contribute to the pungent taste and initiating odor. These chemicals are very toxic when used in large amounts.(more...)
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