Eatlocal are very proud to stock Mandys Horseradish, true artisan products, which are all made right here in Christchurch.
As a testament to how awesome they are, two of them were Gold Medal winners at this year's Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards, the Horseradish Sauce and the Pure Horseradish.
Originally, Mandys Horseradish started with two Mandys (which is why there is no apostrophe in the name!) There is now only one Mandy - Mandy Steel, the owner/operator, and I went with her to one of her paddocks to see where the whole horseradish growing and harvesting process starts.
Horseradish is not a common herb to have in our gardens so Mandy is the largest grower of horseradish in New Zealand with two plots of approximately 6 acres of plants grown on the Canterbury plains.
Canterbury provides the perfect backdrop for growing horseradish with its crisp winter frosts, and possible chance of snow (which is a natural fertilizer for the crop), balanced with hot summer days and sufficient rainfall.
All these factors contribute to the natural pungency of the plants giving the sauces their highly regarded, award-winning pepperiness
The crops are harvested all year round every week. The plants take approximately a year to 18 months to grow. Once harvested they will regenerate for the following year.
Horseradish has very gnarly roots which grow knee-high leaves in the spring. The crop is ready to harvest when the 'crowns' are showing above the ground.
This trusty modified potato harvester is responsible for getting the crop out of the ground. The wheels are placed on either side of the row, and the sharp plate digs the horseradish out of the soil. The plants then travel up the belt and get dropped onto the ground behind.
The crop is then gathered and cut by hand to remove the leaves. and they are left on the ground as a natural weed suppressant.
This little lot is about 80kg, which Mandy will process this week!
The crop is then taken back to Mandy's processing room to be hand-peeled and added to the base sauce, then bottled into jars.
Mandy wears gloves to protect her hands, and goggles to ward against the potent fumes, which are about 100 times stronger than onions!
If a beef joint is making an appearance on your Christmas table this year, serve up some horseradish sauce to go with it! It really is a match made in heaven.
With thanks to Mandy for taking the time to show me the paddock and share her knowledge of all things horseradish.