For some it is a delicacy used sparingly with the right meal. For others, it burns the senses like hellfire. For many in the valley, the small root was something they think of nostalgically.
That small white, hot root found under the bright green fronds is found in patches throughout the valley and is horseradish.
There are patches of the spicy root growing throughout the valley voluntarily. One such prominent patch is in Midland. If you look along North Dinosaur Trail as you pass the Midland Community Hall, there is a patch that has endured for years.
Anecdotes of men, women and children coming out to pick the roots go back years. The origin of the patch?
Nick Sereda tells the Mail, “My wife explained it to me. I was told my father-in-law (Nick Ferby) took a whole bunch of horseradish out of his yard, and took it across the road and threw it in the ditch by the field. Over the years, it spread.”
“We used it, but a lot of people did. The Hutterites used to come and get it.”
Shauna Vaisnis remembers as a young girl, going out and digging out a clump and taking it home. Her grandmother would prepare it. Lots of kids would be out picking it.
“She would always wear eye covers because it was so strong,” she said.
It has spread beyond Midland.
“It is such good horseradish that my mother-in-law, who lives on Vancouver Island, we took some out to the island to her,” said Vaisnis. “Drumheller horseradish travels.”
The horseradish came with the early settlers.
Pauline Lund grew up in Rosedale. She remembers picking for her mom, who would prepare it.
Dianne Snyder is an avid Rosedale gardener and home economist. She says many settlers in Rosedale had patches, and they are still growing wild in yards. There is still one prominent patch near the railroad tracks that grows abundantly.
She explains local lore is that a German woman from one of the mining camps planted it in Rosedale Station, and it has endured.
Preparing horseradish is not for the faint of heart. Snyder said she has prepared horseradish a couple of times, but has sworn to never do it again. She says it is best to dig it in the early fall when the roots are at their largest. You then clean and peel the root. Finally, you grind it. She says she adds a little oil, and it keeps well in the refrigerator.
One tip from many is to not do it in the house. The scent from the root is so pungent, it assaults the senses and makes the eyes water. It begs for a well-ventilated space.
Lena Braman has a novel approach. She freezes it, and when she wants to add it to a recipe such as gravy, she grates in enough for taste.
While Sandra Pliva has never prepared fresh horseradish, many rave about one of her recipes. It includes ground beets and horseradish pickled with salt, vinegar and sugar.