The town of Collinsville, IL and surrounding area is home to an estimated 60% of the world’s horseradish root. People are often surprised by this and the question is sometimes asked – why? The answer to this is lesser known but let’s dive in and break it down.
Collinsville and the surrounding land are at the bottom of a bluff which used to in the Mississippi River Basin. Collinsville is currently about 15 miles to downtown St. Louis, but the Mississippi river used to be much wider in this area.
This left the soil to be rich in potash (Potassium), an important nutrient for horseradish growth. Potassium is one of the main nutrients for strong root growth in many vegetables. In addition to the river basin, St. Louis and surrounding areas used to have a strong coal mining and steel mill presence. These activities long ago spread Sulfur through the air eventually to settle in the soil and provide another nutrient for the growth of horseradish roots.
Horseradish has strong roots in European culture and cuisine. When settlers from Eastern and Central Europe began settling in the area, they found that the soil was suitable for growing horseradish as well as other crops. When European settlers began to settle in Collinsville they started to grow horseradish and it was passed down from generation to generation.
It’s held strong in the Collinsville area as horseradish growing is not something easily broken into. Growing horseradish roots on a large scale is very labor intensive, there is no common horseradish specific equipment, and growing practices are not as well known as grain or other types of farming. In addition to the heritage and technology difficulties, planting stock – as it comes in the form of secondary roots – is re-used by current horseradish farmers. This means that planting stock is not largely available for prospective farmers, keeping Collinsville a strong hub for the horseradish growing community.
More information & sources:
Why Is Southern IL the Horseradish Capital of the World?
Collinsville is The Horseradish Capital of the World