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The Horseradish Man

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Typical phone call, but what happened next is the real meat and potatoes. Turns out the farmer friend had three bushels of roots — more than Sunday had bargained for. But Sunday is a man of vision, and with the help of two brothers-in-law he scraped and cleaned the roots for days with the intent of turning them into vast quantities of condiments.

"The only way I could grind it," says Sunday, "was with ..." — and here he has trouble remembering the name of the grinder. He shouts to his wife: "What's the name of that grinder I put the horseradish in?" But even as she says it he remembers: "A blender!" he says, and the story moves effortlessly on. "Had to be cut in tiny pieces, a quarter inch by a quarter inch."

As Sunday tells it, horseradish root can be ornery stuff. "[It's] almost like wood," he explains, describing the way it burrows in his backyard soil, the way it can thrive just about anywhere. Sunday has a few plants growing behind his tool shed. "I always grow a little in the yard," he says.

"What you buy in the store, it must be raised in sand," he continues, marveling at the memory of the beefy commercially available roots an inch and some thick. His come up more the width of pencils, he says, with plenty of bad spots and what he calls "dark meat," all of which needs to be scraped away before the sweet white flesh can be edible. A dose of vinegar is really all that rounds out the recipe. The stuff comes out sweet and slightly chunky, and can, without warning, commandeer the muscles in your face.

For all his DIY vigor, Sunday actually does have a use for the store-bought stuff. He says he waits until Jewish holidays, when the root is popular, and buys the wrinkled old roots that've been sitting on the shelf awhile. "It gets dried out and doesn't weigh as much," he says. "I bring it home and plant it. The next rain it'll fatten back up as good as new."

In fact, the commercial roots he plants act as the "seeds" of his eventual harvest every year. Each February — not in keeping with any harvest season, per se — he just digs them up and goes to town, grinding them up, adding the vinegar and getting his jars in order. The whole process takes about two months, and this year he produced 96 bottles of the stuff which he sold at the Shriners roadside stand. "I'm not sure how much longer I'll be doing it," he says. "It's one heck of a job." S



You can purchase some of Sunday's horseradish each year in late April, early May during the Vidalia onion sale at the ACCA Temple Shrine off Hermitage Road. Call 264-0509.

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