Holiday Traditions: Tree Shopping and … Horseradish?


After visiting my brother on the North Fork for Thanksgiving about three years ago we went to check out some of the wineries. On our way to Roanoke Vineyard we saw Schmitt Farms, which rests on 175 acres on Sound Avenue in Riverhead, was selling Christmas trees. Why not get our tree while we’re out here? Once we made our selection from a beautiful display of Fraser firs, we went to pay  in the quaint, wooden farm stand where we saw they also sell a number of varieties of homemade horseradish. My sons could not get enough of the mustard horseradish.

Unlike store bought prepared horseradish, Schmitt’s is a beautiful white color. That’s because we sell it right after grinding it, said Matt Schmitt, a fourth generation farmer who owns Schmitt Farms with his dad Phil.  Horseradish roots are harvested usually right before Easter, he added. There is a main root, which he sells to customers and wholesalers, and the smaller and medium sized roots that shoot off the larger, main root. Half the smaller roots are clipped and cleaned by tumbler washer and turned into horseradish, while the rest is replanted in the beginning of May. So technically, horseradish is grown year round. Need more horseradish in the fall? Simply dig it up.

“After the roots get a good cleaning in the tumbler, we hand peel everything. That’s the worst part,” says Matt. “It’s so strong it makes you cry, and it takes a really long time to do. We then grind it up, add vinegar, sugar and salt and mix. We store the roots, but we grind it fresh, and sell it right away. Roughly, we sell about 100 jars a week.” The Schmitts have been growing horseradish in Riverhead for almost 100 years, said Matt. They started jarring it, with the label Holy Schmitts in 2010.

Schmitt Farms currently offers their original horseradish, mustard horseradish, beet horseradish and cranberry horseradish, which is perfect to serve on crackers for the holidays. In the summer they offer hot pepper and barbecue flavors. All of their horseradish is hot! Holy Schmitt, indeed.

Besides horseradish, Schmitt Farms sells homemade pickles and dressings, and a variety of leafy greens, sweet corn and beets in season. For now, it’s all about the Christmas trees and horseradish. Approximately 400 trees are shipped in from Canada each year and range in price from $25 to $150 for a very large tree. The average tree is about six feet and costs between $65 and $70. Matt is happy to tie one of the Fraser or balsam trees to the roof of your car while you’re sampling the horseradish and enjoying a warm cup of hot cider for $1.00.

Current hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday until Christmas Eve.

On your way home, stop off at LIV, Long Island’s first distillery,  just down the road on Sound Avenue in Baiting Hollow. Pick up a bottle of their popular potato vodka, bring home the tree, and start decorating while sipping on a Long Island bloody Mary made with Long Island Vodka, tomato juice, lemon and a good sized tablespoon of Holy Schmitt horseradish. Finish with a touch of worcestershire sauce, a drop or two of tabasco, some fresh ground pepper and stir with a celery stick, then deck the halls, Long Island style.