The Roots of Horseradish

This article was written by Phin Upham

Horseradish is the herb of many uses. It’s simultaneously been used an aphrodisiac, a bitter herb for Passover, and as part of a paste used to flavor roasted beef. While its uses are in constant flux, one thing is certain; the horse radish has always been prized for its taste and medicinal qualities.

There is evidence that the Egyptians knew about it as far back as 1500 B.C. and the Greeks used it to soothe back pain. Horseradish syrup was also used an expectorant for a bad cough. It was even rumored to cure tuberculosis, which was incorrect.

Modern culture’s infatuation with horseradish most likely goes back to Central Europe. The Germans called it “meerrettich,” which means “sea radish” because it grows by the ocean. It was a possible mispronunciation of “meer” as “mare” that would eventually lead to calling it “horseradish.”

The British first came into contact with it in 1640, thanks to the Scandinavian people. It was an herb consumed almost entirely by farmers and workers, but by the late 1600s it was the standard condiment to any roasted meats in England.

When horseradish came to the USA, it was immediately embraced by farmers who grew it in the fertile soil of Mississippi and Illinois. It grew especially popular after World War II, when a group of farmers moved their horseradish operations to Northern California. Today, the US produces more than 6 million gallons of horseradish per annum, which is more than enough to flavor every sandwich in the world twelve times over.

About the Author: Phin Upham is an investor at a family office/hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media & Technology group. You may contact Phin on his Phin Upham website

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