A pungent perennial, horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) is a member of the Cruciferae family (Brassicaceae). A very hardy plant, horseradish flourishes in USDA zones 4 through 8. It is used primarily for its roots, which are grated and used as a condiment. Like its cousins broccoli and radish, the horseradish plant has flowers; the question is, are horseradish flowers edible? If not, should you cut horseradish flowers?
Are Horseradish Flowers Edible?
As mentioned, horseradish is grown primarily for its peppery root. A cold hardy crop, horseradish thrives in either sun or partial shade and is propagated from root cuttings. Horseradish establishes rapidly and even after harvesting the roots, will more than likely pop up in the garden whether you want it to or not. For this reason, many people plant horseradish in pots to retard the possibility of spreading.
If you plant horseradish in the garden, choose a sunny to partially sunny site and allow 18 to 20 inches (46-51 cm.) between plantings. Plant the root cuttings as soon as the ground is thawed enough to dig in the spring.
Plant the cuttings twice as deep as the piece of root since the plants develop a very long taproot. This, of course, is why they plants tend to return and can become invasive. Although you are digging up the root to harvest, it’s very difficult to get every bit. The remaining root pieces easily propagate and, voila, you have horseradish growing again.
As the plants grow, you can pick young leaves to add to salads for a peppery kick. The older leaves, while edible, are tough and unpalatable. So how about flowers on horseradish? On some crops, the flowers are pinched or cut back to encourage leafy growth, especially on herbaceous plants. On other plants, flowers are encouraged because the end goal is for fruit.
Horseradish falls into neither of these categories. While you may see a horseradish plant flowering, the blooms are neither here nor there. As the plant grows, small leaves become large, up to 2 feet (61 cm.) long, and coarse, and a flower stalk pokes out from atop the plant. From the stalks, small, insignificant, white flowers are borne.
In the summer you may or may not see the horseradish plant flowering. Flowers on horseradish are not of any great importance since they produce little, if any, viable seed. Some years the plant may not bloom at all. In either case, while the aromatic young leaves are used in cooking, the flowers are not.
Since the plant is being grown for its root, there is no need to cut horseradish flowers, unless, of course, you wish to use them for indoor flower arrangements– although the flowers are not showy. If your horseradish plant has flowers, it may even be of some benefit to leave the blossoms alone. They may attract pollinators to the rest of the vegetable garden, which is certainly not a bad thing.