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Tule Lake Basin Grows Spicy Horseradish

Right after World War II, the government offered returning veterans homesteads in the Tule Lake Basin near the California border with Oregon.

The 213 homesteaders’ traditional grain crops grew with vigor in the rich, lake-bottom soil drained by the Bureau of Reclamation, but a single, high-desert summer frost wiped them out.

An agriculturist at a nearby research center, working with horseradish roots brought to the Klamath Basin by immigrant Czech farmers, had developed a new variety called Tulelake Number One.  It was perfectly adapted to high desert conditions, including summer frosts. The Czech farmers came to the region around 1910, settling in Malin, Ore., named after a Central European horseradish-growing region.

In 1954, the researcher, Burton Hoyle, helped 21 farmers form a cooperative called the Tulelake Horseradish Association. The first bottles of Tulelake Horseradish came off the line in 1960. By 1993, the four remaining cooperative members were providing 35 percent of the fiery condiment in America.

By 2010, one association member and two other farms still grew horseradish in the Basin, contributing to the approximately six million gallons of prepared horseradish produced annually in the United States.

Sources: Christy, Dave and Paul. The Tulelake Horse Radish Story. Alturas, Calif.: The Journal of the Modoc County Historical Society. No. 15. Ranching and Farming Issue, 1993. Print; "Horseradish History." Horseradish.Inc. - Horseradish - the secret ingredient. Horseradish Information Council, 2014. Web. 9 Dec. 2014. http://horseradish.org/horseradish-facts/horseradish-history/; Most, Stephen. "Subtopic : Putting Nature to Work: Czech Farmers Choose the Klamath." The Oregon History Project. Oregon Historical Society, 2003. Web. 10 Dec. 2014. .

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.