Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mary (and Everyone Else), Did You Know?

I learn the most interesting things about the things in my herb and vegetable garden some times. Like when I was at my elementary school's reunion celebration a few weeks ago and mentioned to a group of fellow "foodie gardeners" that I had planted a horseradish seedling last year for the spicy root that I absolutely adore. Most of the conversation's participants never knew horseradish could be grown in our more Northern climate, since it's taste is so "hot", and the notion of wasabi (also technically viable here) is so foreign. But come to think of it, grated horseradish is one of the most common condiments with British fare like roast beef, so why can't us Canucks give it a college try? Well, it turns out that horseradish is way more than a root plant. In fact, if you let it run amok in your garden, it can turn into a bit of a weed, invading your soil space much like sunchokes will. As the plant grows it's valuable, tasty taproot downwards, it also reaches skyward with huge palm tree-like leaves that can get as long as your forearm and just as wide. This is probably a coping mechanism developed to deal with being frequently grown in shade, but if your horseradish shares a plot with other plants, like mine does, you have to periodically remove the larger fronds to prevent it overshadowing the littler greens.

But what I found out during that conversation was that far from just serving as compost fodder in my garden bed, the leaves of the horseradish plant are actually edible. Not only are they edible, but when prepared similarly to kale or collard greens, they are actually quite delicious, tasting like a cross between peppery arugula and baby spinach with a texture similar to kale. One of my friends who had tasted stewed horseradish greens in the southern U.S. told me about a stewed preparation he had eaten made with bacon, onions and potatoes, and recommended I try cooking with them since they were so plentiful. Being dark leafy greens as well, I can only imagine the amount of folate and other vitamins the leaves have in them too! Apparently, if you harvest the leaves when they're small and tender, they're a great punch of flavour in salads, but in order to eat the larger ones they really should be cooked. Rather than stewing the leaves down into oblivion through (no offense to my Southern neighbours who like stewed greens!) I discovered a better way to prepare them, exactly the same way as my favourite kale dish - chips!

I don't know of anyone else who's made "horseradish chips" like this, and I'm quite pleased that I've tried it - the leaves lose their "heavy", "green" flavour and become light, zippy crisps that (truth be told) I like to dust with wasabi powder before firing - I'm not afraid of spice!

Healthy Horseradish Crisps
Serves 4
200 grams horseradish greens, middle rib removed and torn into "chip sized" pieces
Non-stick cooking spray
Kosher salt and black pepper (or wasabi powder) to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 275F, line a baking sheet with parchment or SilPat.
  2. Place the greens into a bowl and spray with a light coating of non-stick spray.
  3. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to combine, "massaging" the greens to incorporate the salt well.
  4. Spread in one layer on the baking sheet.
  5. Bake 10 minutes, then gently flip the pieces over and bake a further 7-10 minutes, until crispy.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 14.0
Total Fat: 0.2 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 11.5 mg
Total Carbs: 2.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.0 g
Protein: 1.0 g

2 comments :

David T. Macknet said...

Interesting concept!

You might do a bit of digging & see whether those leaves are as high in oxalic acid as some of the other greens (collards, mustard). If so, you might want to temper your intake of them a bit: oxalic acid combines with calcium to form crystals in your system, and can cause anemia and kidney failure.

It's the poisonous component of rhubarb leaves.

slmpetersen said...

I had no idea you could eat the greens...will tuck that thought into my little foodie brain for later.