Here’s my nomination for the next superfood: horseradish.
Like a lot of the herbs we use for flavouring or garnishing our food, it can do so much more. It contains vitamin C, folate, potassium, calcium, sodium, magnesium, zinc and manganese, and that’s just the nutrients.
The active ingredients, especially the mustard oil, don’t just give it a pungency and heat to rival chilli (did you know most wasabi sold in the UK is actually horseradish? It’s cheaper and much more plentiful), they have a host of other actions too. Besides stimulating digestive juices so that you make better use of your roast beef, they are anti-microbial, anti-oxidant (it’s being researched for helping to prevent cancer), and help to clear congestion from the nasal passages and bronchi. It has a diuretic action which can be useful in the management of high blood pressure, and can be used to help keep blood sugar on the level. Its calcium content may also make it a useful herb for anyone at risk of osteoporosis.
The only cautions are that – like chilli - too much may irritate the gastro-intestinal lining, so sufferers from gastritis or irritable bowel should be careful how much they eat. The folate can help prevent spinal defects in babies if the mother takes horseradish in the first three months of pregnancy, but don’t overdo it, or the stimulating effect could have adverse consequences. And like all the cabbage family, it contains isothiocyanates, which can inhibit thyroid function; useful if you have a hyperactive thyroid, but not so good if it is underactive.
We could all use some warming herbs and spices at the moment, and horseradish is local and relatively cheap. Once you have it in your garden, it will multiply rapidly, and you will never be without it.