According to available records, horseradish has not been cultivated agriculturally in our territory for 33 years. According to Jiří Šafar, who five years ago had the idea of starting cultivation, it is not easy at all.
“It is important to know which horseradish, where to get the right seedlings and to have enough irrigation,” said Šafář from the Český asparagus company. According to him, irrigation is the key, which is why they decided to grow horseradish in Mělník in the floodplain.
But the hardest part was the logistics. “Planning, processing, packaging, it cost us some 25 million to be able to supply a proportionate part of the Czech market,” explained Jiří Šafář.
However, the company keeps the specific procedures and steps of work in the warehouse to itself.
The autumn harvest will be available on the market from November until the end of February. After that, there will be another harvest of horseradish – the one that is left in nature’s storage -, i.e. ripens directly in the ground. This horseradish will be available until the next autumn harvest.
This season, they plan to harvest around 120 tons, but they would like to increase their market share up to half, i.e. to around 500 tons per season.
Fifty people and up to five tractors
They continuously employ around twenty people, working on horseradish requires the presence of a total of around fifty people. But the season is still in progress, they expect the most work during December.
“The horseradish requires 1,500 hours of human labor per hectare. It has to be planted by hand, side shoots trimmed, heads trimmed and hand weeded once or twice. A hectare has 7,000 meters and up to 8,000 rows, which means that people have to walk eight kilometers per hectare,” explained Šafář.
They plan to use the technique for plowing in the main season. “The machine hitched to the tractor digs up to 80 centimeters of earth and knocks it out, because we need the whole horseradish. Firstly, because of the planting, so that it doesn’t get damaged and that there are as few roots as possible that could weed the field,” explained the farmer.
At the moment, one tractor is helping in the field. But in just a few weeks, four more machines should help the workers. In the last month of the year alone, they plan to harvest ten hectares. The remaining seven will be harvested in the spring.
About 30 crowns per piece
Czech horseradish will reportedly reach supermarket shelves next week at the latest. According to Šafar, the price will be the same as for the imported one, i.e. roughly 149 crowns per kilo. For one piece of horseradish, around 30 crowns.
The chains Billa, Lidl, Tesco, Globus, Albert, the online store Rohlík and the wholesaler Makro have already shown interest in Mělník horseradish, which already sold horseradish to gastronomy this year.
“After the first tests, we have confirmed that there really is interest in horseradish grown in the Czech Republic. At the moment we are dependent on imports, most of them come here from Hungary, a third from Austria,” Minister of Agriculture Marek Výborný (KDU-ČSL) told Novinkám.
According to Výborný, horseradish became a marginal commodity after 1989, which is why there was such a long gap in cultivation in our country. “Private farmers were returning, the entire sector was changing, and logically some commodities fell into oblivion,” he added.
Horseradish and its health benefits
Horseradish is a traditional Czech plant, known for its distinctive and spicy aroma. This unique plant has many advantages, be it nutritional composition, health benefits, or possibilities of use in the kitchen. Due to its surprising beneficial properties, it is rightly called Czech ginseng.
According to a number of sources, it supports blood circulation and reduces blood pressure by increasing blood flow. In small doses, it supports digestion, stomach and intestinal activity by stimulating digestive juices.
Due to the content of phenolic compounds, it is also a significant source of antioxidants – according to some, even greater than a number of substances that are artificially added to foods for oxidative protection. Compared to other vegetables, horseradish contains much more of these polyphenols (almost twice as much as broccoli, three times as much as carrots and almost five times as much as Brussels sprouts).
Horseradish is an important source of fiber, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, vitamin B6, zinc and iron. It contains three times more vitamin C than lemon, and just three tablespoons of grated horseradish cover half of its recommended daily allowance.
One of the scientific studies found that horseradish containing glycosinolates and especially sinigrin has an anticarcinogenic effect in addition to antibacterial effects. According to some sources, it is able to suppress the development phase of the development of cancer cells and blocks the estrogen receptors of cancer.
And how to use horseradish in the kitchen?
Horseradish can be used in the kitchen in several ways. It can be the basis of excellent sauces that go well with meat, fish or pasta. It can also be a great addition to salads, giving them a spicy flavor.
But it can also be eaten just like that, grated with meat roasts or sausages, it can be softened with, for example, grated apple. Creamy horseradish is also excellent, which is great with baked potatoes, for example.
An unusual combination is also the combination of horseradish and beetroot. The beetroot is soft and sweet, and the pungent horseradish gives it the necessary kick.
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