Samstag, 18. Juni 2011

Plant of the Day (June 18th, 2011) . Armoracia rusticana G. Gaertn., B. Mey & Scherb.

Armoracia rusticana G. Gaertn, B. Mey & Scherb. is a well-known plant from the Brassicaceae (aka Cruciferaceae) family. Its English name is “Horseradish” and the German name is “Meerrettich”. It's a very popular spice.

A. rusticana - Habitus

The plant is a herb, which can reach heights between 60 and 150 centimetres. The upright, bald shoot-axis is edged and hollow inside. The base leaves are very big (until 100 centimetres) and egg or lanceolate-shaped. Their edges are irregularly notched. The lower bracts are pinnate, the upper ones simple, lanceolate and have a serrated edge.

The inflorescence is an umbel-shaped raceme with four, white petals per flower. The ripe, smooth fruits (pods) are egg-shaped and between 4 and 6 millimetres long. They are located at the end of stalks, which are until 20 millimetres long.

 A. rusticana - flowers

As popular spice, Horseradish can be found all over the world (e. g. Europe, North America or even South Africa), but its true origin lays in Eastern Europe, where it was brought by the Slavic people to Middle Europe during the age of antiquity. Later it was brought from Europe to the New world.

Its natural habitats are moist or wet meadows, so you can find it for example at shore sides, lake sides or also alluvial meadows.

A. rusticana - flowers

Before the arrival of pepper, Horseradish was one of the most popular, hot spices. It contains Allylisocyanates (AITC), which give the species its pungent, sharp taste.

It was also used as medicinal plant. Because of its high content of Vitamin C, Horseradish was used against scurvy. Horseradish was also reputed to have an antibacterial effect. It was also administered in cases of poisoning, because in high doses, its sharp taste can also lead to vomiting and detoxification.

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