If you've ever seen horseradish growing, you might have wondered "can I eat the leaves?". The answer is yes, definitely. But you'll need to like your bitter greens.
Horseradish leaves are a great example of finding underused parts of plants to enjoy, I mean sure, everyone is familiar with jars of horseradish you find on grocery store shelves, but the leaves create different possibilities and dimension for working with the flavor of horseradish, which, if you've ever eaten prime rib, you know is great with meat.
I like the leaves for a couple reasons. First they're easy to identify if you find them in the wild, which I do occasionally. Nothing really comes close to resembling the tall deep green leaves and thick stems they have.
Sorrels, Rumex sp, etc can come close, but crushing one in your hand and smelling them will give them away quickly, since they smell, well, like horseradish. Secondly, these things grow fast. I've clear cut the leaves off of a colony and come back a week later to harvest more greens.
Where I live, the horseradish greens are beloved by bugs that eat holes in them, to ensure I get the best quality leaves, I regularly trim them.
Processing, cooking, and creative uses
As far as cooking, the only real thing to know is that, just like the roots, horseradish leaves have a strong flavor, and if you aren't ready for it, they definitely come off as intense.
You can eat the leaves raw, but I usually find myself cooking them, as much for helping to curb their intensity as for the fact that I like to cook greens since I can ingest more of them in a sitting.
The flavor of horseradish leaves is great though, and a fun way to showcase a part of the plant that doesn't get much, if any attention. Besides their strong flavor, the shape and specifically their length is useful too.
After removing the stem, you get left with two lobes of leaves which can be roughly the size, (or often longer) than lacinato/dinosaur kale.
Leaves that long, with a strong flavor can be used to do things that other, smaller greens wouldn't be able to, think blanching them and lining a terrine of cooked, gelled beef, or wrapping up meat in small packages like grape leaves.
My trick for cooking horseradish greens
I've been cooking with these for a number of years now, and after serving them to plenty of people, I can tell you that most people who aren't used to bitter greens may not like them. Personally, I love bitter greens for what they are, and think they make a great foil for rich things like smoked meat, especially beef and pork.
Even so, some people will need help to like these, so I have a trick for helping people enjoy their flavor: I cook the greens with 50% of their weight with another mild, palatable green, like spinach, lamb'squarters, nettles, etc.
Combining them with other mild greens also serves the purpose of stretching them. One of the first things you might notice about horseradish leaves is that they're thin, and don't have a ton of weight.
After cooking, they lose a lot of volume, so working them into a blend of cooked greens helps not only to make them go further, but tames them a bit for the uninitiated.
Blanching, shocking and freezing is, hands-down, my go-to method for preserving horsey greens. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, drop in the greens, cook for a few seconds until wilted, then transfer to an ice bath.
When they're chilled, remove the greens, squeeze out most, but not all of the water, then put into a plastic bag, seal tightly, label, date, and freeze.
The salt and a little bit of liquid help to preserve the color and integrity of the greens much better than something like simply freezing raw, which will get freezer burn easily.
Do you have a recipe to make stuffed horseradish leaves, like stuffing grape leaves?
You could certainly use them instead of grape leaves, but the midrib will take some dealing with. Cow parsnip is a much better alternative, if you know that plant.
Be careful, cow parsnip can cause photo-toxic rash.
As can the juices of garden celery, angelica, garden parsnips, and many plants from the carrot family.
Yes, my husband got into wild parsnip and did't tell me he had a rash, by the time I noticed it, his whole arm was a mess, took several weeks to clear up. Nasty stuff, I did the same thing later that summer, but knew to keep the rash covered and stay out of the sun. We've eradicated it on the acreage.
Have you ever or would you recommend using horseradish leaves to make chimichurri?
No. Too tough and bitter. Blanch them and use as a cooked bitter green. Add strong partners like tomato, onion, hot chili, fish sauce, nuts, etc.
Was thinking about using them for a stuffed cabbage recipe that uses beef as the filling...thoughts?
Yeah you're fine, just know that the leaves may start to break down with long cooking, where cabbage is pretty bullet-proof.
TY! Love the site! Maybe I'll use a double/triple wrap to try to overcome them breaking down...
Great article - thank you. What do you think of drying the leaves, blending to a powder and using as a spicy condiment? Similar to how you would Cayenne. Sprinkle on eggs or meat?
No, I wouldn't do that. The heat isn't going to come through after drying. I'm pretty sure you'd just end up with a bitter powder.
The heat does come through after drying (I added a bit of oil & sea salt) but, imo, you need too find a way to smooth out the concentrated bitterness in order to use it as a seasoning. For now I’m vacuum sealing and adding to soups in the fall & winter.
Thank you. This information is very helpful. I grow a lot of horseradish and I also eat a lot of greens. Perfect fit.
Is this the same horseradish recommended to use the leaf as Tannin in fermented pickles? I have lots of leaves but was not sure.
I've never heard of horseradish leaves used like that, but currant, oak leaves, and most notably grape leaves are pretty well documented.
Yes I use horseradish leaves similarly in my lacto fermented pickles. Such nice large leaves also work well to keep everything under the brine.
I have a couple Russian friends that will search high and low for horseradish leaves to ferment cucumbers in … makes an excellent pickle with a ZIP ! 🙂
Yes. Great for crunchy cucumber pickles. Adds flavor.
New reader. What a cool article. Could I grow horse radish leaves in Hawaii? Dried wasabi leaves/stems used to be available from Japan. Great flavor over rice but since the recurring "trade wars" the product has disappeared.
i debydrated them, crushed them snd found them to be much much less bitter. But would love ideas of what to do with the powder!!
Horseradish leaf powder? Maybe add it to some bread to make it turn green, or crepe batter, etc.
after blanchlng strain leaves leave juice to cool put in a dash of black pepper then drink
I'm so glad to have found this! I have a large patch of horseradish and love bitter greens!
Glad it was helpful for you. I enjoy the leaves.
I use horseradish greens cooked with Indian spices, esp.Kasmiri curry powder, hot red peppers, s and p, sometimes lime juice. I often mix them with spinach and paneer. We like stuff HOT!
Can you eat the flower buds before they become flowers?
Yes, my plants never flower though so I haven't tried them. They'll be quite strong tasting.
Great article, thank you.
I've just been cutting some down, leaves are healthy and fresh looking, can I eat them late summer Or only in spring?
You can eat them any old time. I like them on the young side, but the big ones are fine too.
I enjoy fermented vegetables with rice. So, to experiment with this, I have chopped the leaves into1/4" or less size, place in oven steralized gallon jars, and poured steralized water over them to ferment refrigerated.
Hi, just saw the article, and have a few horseradish plants that I keep in the veggie garden for the roots. I will agree that the fresh leaves are bitter (tried one for the first time this summer after leaving them for the leaf-munching bugs, as a distraction from my main vegetable plants).
Quick question, either in addition to, or instead of, do you think it would be worthwhile to saute the leaves, similar to say, spinach or bok choy. Say with oil, crushed garlic / ginger, and soy sauce?
Yes you can cook the greens, but you'll need to like bitter. Blanch them and use in a combination with other plants in a mixture that tastes good to you. Start with 25% horseradish greens or so.
I have used the fresh greens in a salad with other spring greens and spinach. I like it better than arugula. I planted 2 horseradish plants 2 years ago and I just harvested all the leaves from 1 and dug up the roots. This is a prolific plant lol I now have several smaller plants I potted to give away, and I have some thick roots to grind down and make sauce with. And that original plant is huge! I'm curious to see if those little roots left behind will just fill the pot with new plants... it probably will lol I'm glad I put these in pots and not in the ground.
Thanks Shelley, yes horseradish will spread if you let it.
An old recipe of my Mom's calls for horseradish leaves to be lined in the crock with the cucs for one day of the 14 day pricess of making sweet pickles. I don't have access to them and I'm wondering if there is a substitute? Do you think the pickle flavor will be significantly different without this step?
The flavor transferred by the leaves would be negligeable in my mind. I'd go ahead without them. Fun to hear about the tradition though, thank you.
I have used both grape leaves and horseradish leaves on the top of my pickles. I prefer grape leaves as I don't like the slight horseradish flavor. This is for processed pickles - not fermented.
Hello-- This is my first time growing horseradish, but my mom used to grow it and we used it on pinto beans in winter. I would like to know if you can eat the leaves raw and are they Hot like the root.
Yes, and yes.
Lisa Castell Turchansky
Can horseradish leaves be pickled?
I haven't tried. If I did, I would cut the leaves from the tough stems and pickle them with cold liquid. Try using a Korean soy sauce pickled onion recipe for it such as Meonghi (might have miseplled that).