Families pass down all sorts of heirlooms from generation to generation. One of the most important in mine is a plant. No, it’s not a rare orchid or a prize rose. It’s just ordinary horseradish (Amoracia rusticana).
As far as anyone remembers, the plant originated in my grandmother’s backyard. Before she died, I dug up a portion and it has thrived in my various vegetable plots for about forty years. At least one of my sisters and some of my cousins also have part of this pungent perennial.
As in my grandmother’s day, each year when my family gathers for a Passover Seder, a meal that is also a retelling of the Exodus from Egypt, a piece of the plant’s root is placed in a spot of honor among other symbolic foods. At the appropriate point in the story telling, we share pieces of this “bitter herb” symbolizing the bitterness of slavery under pharaoh.