© 2024 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Horseradish Roots Run Deep In The Metro East

There's a pretty good chance that the jar of horseradish you have in the refrigerator has its origins in farms located just across the river from St. Louis.

St. Clair and Madison counties in Illinois produce the lion's share of horseradish in the U.S. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, just 16 growers in Illinois harvest horseradish from 1,779 acres, accounting for about 60 percent of the nation's horseradish. Nationally, only about 3,100 acres are in horseradish production.

So, what makes the Metro East such a hotspot for horseradish? Experts say the light soil and mild winters make it easier to harvest the root, which was brought here by immigrants from eastern Europe who settled the area during the 1800s. Jeff Heepke, a farmer and president of the Horseradish Growers of Illinois, said his great-grandfather brought the root from Germany.

Today, residents in the area kick off a celebration of the root (and their own roots) with the International Horseradish Festival in Collinsville, Ill. This year's event will be held in Woodland Park and runs from Friday evening through Sunday. It will include games from a root toss to root golf, as well as several horseradish recipe contests. We've asked our listeners to contribute a few of their favorites:

Shrimp Sauce

(a.k.a Cocktail Sauce or Seafood Sauce)

  • Heinz Cocktail Sauce (must use Heinz)
  • Bottled horseradish, more = hotter, less = milder
  • Little bit of lemon juice
  • Mix and keep cold

"This first recipe is very simple, but tastes better than 'store-bought' versions," said Fran Sudekum, who submitted the recipe she got from her grandmother, Sue Sudekum.
Horseradish Deviled Eggs

  • 1 dozen hard boiled eggs
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoon horseradish (add 1/2-1 tablespoon more if you like more of a kick)
  • 1 teaspoon dill weed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon each of celery salt, black pepper
  • paprika to sprinkle over stuffed eggs

"We love spicy food and our family of six enjoys cooking with herbs and spices to flavor our dishes. Using this vegetable certainly adds a kick and great flavor to our twist of deviled eggs," said Maria Martinez-BonDurant, who gave St. Louis Public Radio this recipe through the Public Insight Network.

Grinding fresh horseradish:

Listen to farmer Jeff Heepke's instructions on how to grind your own horseradish root.

Recipes from the International Horseradish Festival cookbook, published in 2012:

Horseradish Mashed Potatoes

  • 10 medium potatoes
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoon prepared horseradish
  • ¼ cup butter

Boil potatoes in water. Cook until tender. Mash potatoes with whipping cream, butter, horseradish and pepper.
Bloody Stallion

  • 1 ½ ounce vodka
  • 3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 5 dashes Tabasco sauce
  • ½ teaspoon horseradish
  • Celery salt to taste
  • 6 ounce tomato juice

Fill shaker with ice. Pour in vodka; add sauces, horseradish and celery salt. Add tomato juice. Shake vigorously to blend. Prepare tall glass by rubbing the rim with fresh lemon. Pour shaker into glass and enjoy. Garnish with olives, celery stalk or spicy string bean.
Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

Inform our coverage

This report contains information gathered with the help of our Public Insight Network. To learn more about the network and how you can become a source, please click here.  

Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.