Lester’s Legendary Horseradish
by Marney Roddick
At Passover time, my old friend Lester provided fresh horseradish for the entire Rogue Valley Jewish community, which back in the ‘70s stretched from Wolf Creek to Yreka. He had a huge patch of horseradish plants in his backyard that he harvested every spring.
Fresh horseradish is a perennial with some pretty impressive properties that promote good health. Used as a condiment for thousands of years, horseradish adds zest to just about any food you serve.
I remember the work parties attended by the ladies of the community. First there was the digging. Then Lester and his wife presided over the operation while we grated mountains of the pungent roots, some of us tearing up from the fumes. The kitchen was filled with laughter, arguing, gossip, and strong odors.
Lester’s secret recipe included just a touch of salt and sugar, plus a splash of vinegar. I’m not sure of the ratios, but it was almost 100% full-strength horseradish. About half of the batch was tinted pink from beet juice. It didn’t taste any different, but it looked great.
When Lester passed away, some of us went over to dig up a root or two to plant on our own. For years, every spring I would go out to harvest just enough for my family to share with friends at the Passover table. It always felt like Lester was still with us as we gathered for the telling of the ancient story.