Horseradish Tree

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

horseradish tree Moringa oleifera, a small tree of India now grown also in the W. Indies and other tropical regions. Europeans in India discovered that its root ‘so exactly resembles horse-radish as scarcely to be distinguished from it by the nicest palate’, and used it with their roast beef. However, the main reason for its cultivation is that its seeds are the source of ben oil, used in perfumery and for lubrication; and the next most important reason is that the pods and leaves are edible.

The long, narrow pods or fruits contain a whitish mass in which three-winged seeds are embedded. These pods, when still young, are cut into short lengths and used in Indian curry dishes. The outside of the pod remains inedible and is discarded, but the mucilaginous inside and the immature seeds have a pleasant, slightly hot taste. As Ochse (1980) remarks: ‘The stewed fruits cannot be eaten whole, but one sucks their contents and throws the tough valves away.’