Horseradish Brings Hot Weather to Collinsville

COLLINSVILLE – It was hot in Old Town this weekend as the 35th annual International Horseradish Festival in Collinsville gave a mouth-watering nod to the spicy root and neighboring farmers who grow nearly two-thirds of the world’s horseradish . supply.

“I love it; it spices up everything,” said Debra Zumwinkel of Collinsville as she bought jars of horseradish sauce. “I can feel it in my mouth and nose; it’s good.”

The downtown Collinsville festival included entertainment stages, family activities, food, a Bloody Mary contest, roots toss, cornhole tournament, and the Miss Horseradish pageant.

Mackenzie Burgelin brought her son and daughter to the festival.

“We were from that area and we were really looking forward to it because we knew the kids would have a great time,” Burgelin said.

“I love horseradish,” she said. “It’s not some kind of immediate spice. It’s a little more neurological. You feel it on your tongue, in your nose and in your head. It’s good; we like it on the bratwurst.

Tara Chapman and her 3-year-old daughter, Ember, cooled off the horseradish heat on Saturday in their own unique way – mom with a Bloody Mary and daughter with a snow cone.

“Horseradish is so delicious and bitter; I really like it in my Bloody Marys and on my bratwurst,” Chapman said. “We love the feeling of the whole community at this festival, especially after COVID.”

About 60% of the world’s horseradish is grown in the Collinsville area. The horseradish festival is the only time of the year when people can buy freshly ground horseradish directly from the producers.

“We have the right climate and the right soil here,” said Rob Relleke of Horseradish Growers of Illinois. “It grows well in the sandier soil here, which makes it easier to extract and separate from the ground.

“It’s quite laborious to develop; it’s not a seed, so we plant from a piece of root,” Relleke said. “You have to keep the smaller roots that grow from the main root. These go in a cooler until the following spring where they are planted by hand or by dropping them into the ground using a chute. There is no automatic horseradish planter.

Horseradish has a strong flavor generally described as pungent, spicy, and peppery. The intense horseradish sensation is felt primarily through the nose and sinuses.

Horseradish, which is actually poisonous to horses, has been cultivated since ancient times. The plant was introduced to North America during European colonization.