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We're Not Horsin' Around!

Which Wisconsin specialty crop is still planted and harvested mostly by hand, has been bottled since 1860, and has been thrown 80.5 feet for a place in the Guinness Book of World Records? Why, it’s none other than the humble horseradish, of course, according to!

The University of Wisconsin Division of Extension shares that horseradish is native to southeastern Eastern Europe and western Asia but is now cultivated worldwide. About 3,000 acres are cultivated in the United States each year, primarily in California, New Jersey, Virginia, Illinois, and Wisconsin. Today, after nearly 100 years in business, Huntsinger Farms in Eau Claire is the world's largest grower and processor of horseradish.

Huntsinger Farms says in the early days of horseradish growing, Ellis Huntsinger prepared and bottled the horseradish by hand in an old milk shed behind his house, selling it locally to help augment his income during Wisconsin’s long cold winter months. He discovered that the addition of fresh sweet dairy cream helped further enhance the flavor, heat, and longevity of prepared horseradish, a discovery that helped him expand his horseradish sales to markets throughout the United States. Prepared horseradish is traditionally ground and mixed with vinegar as a natural preservative since the fresh root, once washed and grated, would otherwise soon turn dark and lose its characteristic bite. Refrigeration is necessary to keep prepared horseradish white in color and to retain its sharp flavor.

Horseradish plants love Wisconsin's winters, utilizing the cold season to develop their tap root. The Old Farmer's Almanac says that the best flavor comes from the roots that have endured multiple frosts. Here are some tips from the almanac for growing horseradish right at home:

  • Aspiring horseradish growers can obtain root cuttings - sometimes called “starts” or “sets” - from seed companies, local garden supply stores, farmers’ markets, and sometimes even supermarkets.

  • Plant horseradish in full sun. Horseradish will tolerate partial sun, but yields will not be as good. Soil must be moist, fertile, and loamy, or the roots can’t grow down (similar to carrots).

  • Prepare the soil by tilling eight to 10 inches down and clearing out any roots or rocks that could impede the horseradish growth. Add a shovel full of compost.

  • Plant horseradish sets—small pieces of horseradish root—in early spring, as soon as the soil can be worked, or in fall.

  • Horseradish requires a long growing season, so plan to harvest in the fall (just before a freeze) or in early spring of the following year.

Learn more about growing your own horseradish at

Now that you're ready to grow your own horseradish, it's time to start planning out how to use your harvest! Don't worry, though; if your green thumb isn't the best, these recipes work just as well with store-bought horseradish.

Horseradish goes well with a variety of ingredients, and Silver Spring, a subsidiary of Huntsinger Farms, has recipes for every course, as well as tried and true family recipes. Their Cranberry Horseradish Brie Bites combine several classic Wisconsin products into one quick and delicious appetizer! Simply place pieces of brie onto a cracker of your choice, drizzle with Cranberry Horseradish Sauce, sprinkle with lemon zest, pecans, and thyme, and serve!


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