The Aischgrund is known far beyond the borders of Franconia for its unrivaled delicacy, horseradish, which is commonly called "Meerrettich" or "Kren" in German-speaking countries. A small dash of Kren can complement many a dish.
Kren certainly is by no means a "newcomer" to these farmlands. In records dating back as early as 1730 it was mentioned as a native crop grown on farmlands in the Aischgrund. Up until a few decades ago, however, the focus remained on the cultivation of garlic on the land surrounding Nuremberg.
The more this region grew to become a main vegetable supplier for the big cities of Central Franconia, the more necessary it was for horseradish to reclaim its place in its ancestral region. This specialized crop is very labor-intensive. The cultivation of just one hectare of land requires around 1000 hours of labor. Yet another reason that Kren was neglected.
After fleeing the regions immediately surrounding the city limits on flat land, horseradish has now become the most profitable specialized crop in the Aischgrund. The Aischgrund is the largest farming region in Germany. Its farming region probably takes up about 250 hectares altogether. With its low-lying topography between streams and ponds, the region's soil composition provides the perfect conditions for the plants to flourish and is an important prerequisite for their cultivation. They are fond of areas with damp, deep-set soil - but will not grow well in standing water. Also, the soil cannot be loamy. Similarly ideal conditions as are present in the Aischgrund can only be found in the regions surrounding Hamburg, Bühl in Baden, and Spreewald.
In the Middle Ages there was an entire list of illnesses that horseradish was used to treat. It was used mainly as an irritant, skin reddening agent and was used to treat scurvy. In these cases, horseradish was applied more externally than internally. Horseradish was also eaten in larger quantities to help treat poisoning, since it would cause a person to vomit. Furthermore, it was also used like mustard to treat digestive problems, scurvy, dropsy, amenorrhea, and malaria. It was prepared by grating or pressing the root and then administered by the spoonful. Other illnesses for which it was perceived to be a useful treatment included earaches and roseola.
These days horseradish is used to help strengthen the immune system and protect against illnesses such as the common cold. Horseradish contains large amounts of vitamin C. Radix Armoraciae, which can be purchased in pharmacies, is found in remedies for the flu and urinary tract infections. It stimulates blood circulation, acts as a cough suppressant, and is used externally as a poultice for rheumatism, gout, insect bites, sciatica, and other nerve pains. It is also supposed to help with headaches. In order for it work, you have to breathe in a whiff of the horseradish, which releases tension. Horseradish is also said to be effective against gastrointestinal problems and to assist with the excretion of bile (digestion of fat). Additionally, horseradish also contains bacteria-resistant (antibiotic) and cancer-preventative compounds. These are sulfurous substances that are also found in garlic (like allicin, sinigrin) and that make horseradish a very healthy vegetable.
The antimicrobial effects of the so-called mustard oils in horseradish have been scientifically proven. The essential oil contains allyl isothiocyanate oil (approx. 90%) and 2-phenylethene mustard oil. Depending on the dosage, the horseradish can have a bacteriostatic or bactericidal effect. Mustard oil is not derived from the leafy top of the plant, but rather from the thick, fleshy underground root network of the horseradish.
The antimicrobial effects of the volatile and oily agents found in horseradish were identified as early as the 1950s. In vitro tests have shown that the full oil possesses a strong bacteriostatic effect: the allyl isothiocyanate mustard oil from the horseradish root shows good effectiveness on the gram-negative spectrum, while the 2-phenylethene mustard oil has a wider spectrum of effectiveness in the gram-positive range.
It was even possible to prove that the mustard oil from horseradish has antiviral properties. Horseradish oil also acts as a good fungistatic agent against human-pathogenic fungi, yeast, yeast-like fungi, and mold fungi.
In various experiments, horseradish oil was shown to have a detoxifying effect on streptococcus and staphylococcus infections, something which can be attributed to the deactivation or destruction of the streptococcus toxin streptolysin. Studies carried out at the Hygieneinstitut Gießen in 1963 determined that approximately 100 mg of the plant contain enough of the active ingredient to deactivate three times as much of the streptococcus toxin - the highest toxin concentration to be found in a human organism to date.
Horseradish root is also said to help with catarrh inflammations of the airways, and infections of outgoing urinary passages, as well as being a good circulation-promoting treatment for mild muscle pains (external use). The fresh or dried and finely crushed drug, the juice pressed straight from the plant, or other galenic preparations are used for oral consumption or external use. Horseradish root can and should be combined with other plant compounds. Combined with nasturtium, the horseradish root is usually used as a phytotherapeutic remedy for treating respiratory and urinary tract infections. In vitro studies show that a combination of both plant compounds are effective against a broad spectrum of bacteria, 13 clinically relevant strains of bacteria to be precise, including MRSA and pseudomonas aeruginosa.
It used to be assumed that people with bladder and kidney illnesses shouldn't eat horseradish, since large quantities of horseradish may cause kidneys to bleed. This problem is no longer being reported in today's professional literature. Horseradish is not suitable for patients with stomach or intestinal ulcers or anyone with a dysfunctional thyroid.
Raw, grated horseradish can cause the mouth or nose to burn, cause reddening or blisters on the skin, or can even cause diarrhea or vomiting when consumed in very large quantities. This property is lost when the horseradish root is dried.
(source: Wikipedia http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meerrettich)