Passover has passed.
Did you buy a big ol’ horseradish root at the grocery store for Maror this year?
Did you toss it on the compost heap yet?
Well, run right out and pull it back off. You can use it to grow a new one for next year’s seder. Even a small piece should take root just fine. Your kid can help you, and then proudly claim ownership at Passover.
HOW WE CAN USE IT WITH KIDS
Horseradish satisfies two places on a seder plate: Maror and Chazeret. Traditionally, a piece of the whole root is best for the Maror, while the Chazeret can be an “adulterated” version of horseradish (see next paragraph) or a bitter lettuce like Romaine. Chazeret is fine to use for the Korech step of the seder (aka the Hillel sandwich).
A much more satisfying way to refer to adulterated Maror is chrain. Chrain/chrein is Russian for horseradish, but it means the grated kind. Use it plain as a condiment or add vinegar or beet juice. I prefer the plain, as vinegar seems to turn it a weird shade of turquoise at the edges. Either way, the potency is fleeting, so don’t plan on grating a ton and saving it. Here is a quick recipe for the vinegar-added kind. Here is one for the beet version which makes gefilte fish look and taste SO much better. (Both are from Elana’s Pantry, a gluten-free blog.)
If you delegate the task of grating chrain to a child old enough to use a hand-grater, you will create an indelible, hands-on, concrete reference point for your kid and the holiday of Passover. (You will also get an annual photo opportunity perfect for inclusion in future bar/bat mitzvah slideshows…)
To remember the bitterness of slavery requires a leap of imagination. To remember the bitterness of grating chrain does not!
We make this a fun tradition with the goggles and the photo op, but if your kid wants no part of grating a freaky root, may I suggest doing it yourself and making it look like a fun/silly/theatrical/brave (whatever is appealing to your child) thing to do.
HOW TO GROW IT
Now, back to the growing of the root. The crown is the wider part with the growing edges. If the root is branched, cut the branches apart to get more pieces. Cut a sliver, point the crown part up, and put it into a deep pot. The deeper the better, since it has a tap root, and you want a long, strong root (rather than a spindly spiral). Done. It will grow leaves. Next spring, dig it up and use the root for Passover. If it’s a whopper, save part of it for replanting.
For a more nuanced growing guide, see any of the three gardening articles listed below.
Warning: The root can be invasive in a garden. Thus, I’ve advised to plant in a container. A contractor’s 10 gallon can, for example, or a pot leftover from a shrub purchase. Maror is great, but you don’t want it to take over your double-dug vegetable bed.
The photo at left is my plant from last year. The leaves are big, about a foot tall. Horseradish is in the cabbage family and is therefore a magnet to many caterpillars, especially the Cabbage White. Do not panic, and do not resort to chemicals (bad for you, bad for the critters, bad for the watershed, etc.). My leaves got eaten down to the midribs, but came right back and the root was fine.