Friday, March 23, 2012

It's Hot....It's Healthy.....It's Horseradish

Should you find yourself near Collinsville, Illinois, (20 minutes east of downtown St. Louis, Missouri) there's a photo op waiting......the world's largest ketchup bottle.  Officials calculate it could hold enough ketchup to cover 25 million hamburgers.  The ketchup bottle is actually a water tower that stands 170 feet high.

Collinsville is also the self-proclaimed Horseradish Capital of the World. This Mississippi River basin area known as the American Bottoms, carved out by the glaciers during the ice age, left the soil rich in potash, a nutrient on which horseradish thrives.

Since 1988, Collinsville celebrates the International Horseradish Festival.  In 2012, the dates are June 1-3.  Naturally it's not Disney World, but admission is free, parking is free, live entertainment is free, and shuttle service is free.  With $4+ gasoline, maybe we should think of alternatives to the expensive family vacation.  Not only that, but these down-home celebrations can introduce kids to the real Southern Illinois where 80% to 85% of the world's horseradish is grown.    

Why such a name for this condiment?  The German immigrants brought it to America and called it meerrettich, which means sea radish, because it was grown in the lowland parts of Germany near the sea.  The English understood the German meer (which sounds like mare) to mean horse and translated the word to horseradish.  "Radish" comes from the Latin "radix," meaning root.

Our family has to have horseradish on the table with ham, and homemade cocktail sauce is simple to make by mixing together ketchup and horseradish.  For those of us who like a good kick to our Bloody Mary, well, horseradish will magically do that trick.

Trivia:  Some biblical scholars believe horseradish was the bitter herb into which Jesus dipped his bread at the Last Supper.  The bitter herbs symbolize the bitterness of slavery in Egypt.

It's time for lunch.  Wish I had a ham sandwich.