Horseradish leaves for your salad

Add this unique secret ingredient to your summertime dishes

Bob Dluzen
The Detroit News

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about what was going on in the garden. I mentioned how well the horseradish was growing and that we were looking forward to harvesting the roots in the fall. 

Now our horseradish leaves are well over 3 feet tall. 

Horseradish plants produce an abundance of long, flavorful and nutritious leaves.

While everyone knows that horseradish roots are grated into vinegar to make that spicy condiment many enjoy, not too many people know that horseradish leaves are also edible and can be quite tasty.

The plants are now big enough to start harvesting leaves from them without hindering growth.

Young leaves have a mild flavor and tender texture. They are a little bit spicy and while they have their own unique flavor, the taste is somewhat like you’d imagine a cross between arugula and kale would be. Keeping that in mind, you might be able to appreciate the zip it would add to a salad.

Horseradish leaves taken from the center of the plant will be more tender.

Horseradish belongs to the Brassica or cabbage family of plants, which includes kale, collards, broccoli, cauliflower and many other garden plants.

Later on in the season as the plant gets larger, the leaves develop a deeper green color, a somewhat heavier texture and the flavor tends to become more prominent and pronounced. The horseradish hotness comes through a bit more and becomes pleasantly bitter. This all sounds like it's a detriment to the flavor, but to those who enjoyed a slight bitterness and hot flavor, the taste is quite enjoyable.

Horseradish leaves may be eaten raw or cooked. Cooking of course changes the flavor. I like to add chopped leaves to my omelet or scrambled eggs to add even more savory flavor  to the cheese and other ingredients I might use.

The leaves can be used as a substitute for cabbage or more frequently as an addition to a cabbage dish whenever you want to add an extra kick to the flavor. Try adding some to your next coleslaw recipe.

Horseradish leaves may be that secret ingredient that you're looking for that will make your dishes unique.

So if you are feeling adventurous, you might want to try horseradish leaves and now is a good time to harvest them while they're still young and relatively mild. 

I spent a little bit of time online looking for nutrition information about horseradish leaves but, as you might guess, not much information is available. I would expect it to match or exceed the nutritional value of other leafy green vegetables.

This is another case where you can experience a taste not available anywhere except from your own garden. 

It seems as if chefs are always looking for the next unique taste to set their restaurant apart; maybe horseradish leaves are what they are looking for. Imagine the impression a veggie wrap made from a 3-foot-long leaf would make.