Processer aiming for horseradish growers
BALTIMORE — A Baltimore food processor is seeking farmers on Delmarva to grow one of its key ingredients: horseradish.
Phil Tulkoff, president of Tulkoff Food Products said Delmarva’s sandy soil and typical cold snap during the winter make it a good fit for growing the root crop.
He said he sources the bulk of the millions of pounds of horseradish the company uses annually from growers in Collinsville, Ill., an area near St. Louis that grows about 60 percent of the world’s crop.
He said last year’s spring flooding in the midwest sent him scrambling to other areas to fill orders when Illinois growers couldn’t plant their crop.
He went to Canada and even Europe to try to fill his need but still came up well short of what they had planned to grind into puree for its sauces and other products.
That ordeal, combined with ever-increasing freight charges and more growers retiring without another generation coming in, motivated Tulkoff to try to cultivate local options.
Tulkoff said he’s hoping to contract with farmers a year in advance for the 2021 crop with a set price to help both his company and prospective growers manage costs.
“I would just think that would be very attractive to contain some of the risk involved,” he said.
He added pricing has been very steady for several years.
“It’s not a commodity thing,” Tulkoff said. “It’s not a volatile crop.”
Interested farmers can get more information by e-mailing Tulkoff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The company is now in its third generation of family ownership, born out of a produce business Harry and Lena Tulkoff started in the 1920s and later concentrating on horseradish products. The company has its own line of retail horseradish products but Phil Tulkoff said it primarily produces wholesale quantities for the food service industry.
“Horseradish is a big part of our product line,” he said. “Food service is our bread and butter.”
For efficiency, Tulkoff is seeking growers who can supply at least 250,000 pounds annually. Given typical yields, he said that generally works out to about 25 to 30 acres of planted horseradish.
As part of the agreement, Tulkoff said the farmer would arrange for delivery of the crop in refrigerated trailers to the company’s processing facility in Baltimore but Tulkoff will pay the freight costs.
Though commercial horseradish production is rare for the region, it’s not unheard of. Tulkoff said one Eastern Shore farmer, Michael Appenzeller, grew about 100,000 pounds annually for several years before his death in 2019.
Tulkoff said he doesn’t expect to secure enough growers to fill his entire need but hopes to start a long term relationship with a few that can help the company manage its risk of securing a crop year after year.
“We’re in this for the long term,” he said. “This is just getting started and I’m hoping that in two years I can get two or three growers with a million pounds or maybe have some join together and put up a shed and share equipment.”
Equipment would be one aspect growers would need to work out as planters are specialized and many growers use modified potato diggers for harvesting, Phil Tulkoff said.
Growers he works with now plant horseradish on a five-year rotation, which may also challenge some prospective growers.
Securing labor for key parts of the growing process, similar to some vegetable growing operations, will be another aspect for growers to work out.
And while adding the crop may not appeal to a lot of farmers, he said there’s one aspect that all growers can appreciate.
“Deer do not like horseradish,” he said.
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