flowers

Yellow crab-of-the-woods mushroom with lamb stew and quark noodle

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These special spring-summer mushroom’s common names are crab-of-the-woodssulphur polyporesulphur shelf, and chicken-of-the-woods. Its fruit bodies grow as striking golden-yellow shelf-like structures on tree trunks and branches. Old fruitbodies fade to pale beige or pale grey. The undersurface of the fruit body is made up of tubelike pores rather than gills.

Laetiporus sulphureus is a saphrophyte and occasionally a weak parasite, causing brown cubical rot in the heartwood of trees on which it grows. Unlike many bracket fungi, it is edible when young, although adverse reactions have been reported.

Due to its taste, Laetiporus sulphureus has been called the chicken polypore and chicken-of-the-woods (not to be confused with Grifola frondosa, the so-called hen-of-the-woods).

Many people think that the mushroom tastes like crab or lobster leading to the nickname lobster-of-the-woods. The authors of Mushrooms in Color said that the mushroom tastes good sauteed in butter or prepared in a cream sauce served on toast or rice. It is highly regarded in Germany and North America.

Young specimens are edible if they exude large amounts of a clear to pale yellow watery liquid. Only the young outer edges of larger specimens should be collected, as older portions tend to be tough, unpalatable, and bug-infested. The mushroom should not be eaten raw. Certain species of deer consume this type of mushroom.

Braised lamb with mushroom and green asparagus with quark noodle

Ingredients:1 large onion, quartered, 1 leek, halved lengthwise, 500 gr green asparagus, peeled, 1 large carrot, quartered, 1 garlic head, halved horizontally, 3 thyme sprigs, 3 parsley sprigs, 3 rosemary sprigs, 1 fresh bay leaf, 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns, One 8-pound semi-boneless leg of lamb (aitch bone removed), salt, 2 quarts chicken stock or low-sodium broth

  • Step 1 Preheat the oven to 500°. In a roasting pan that’s large enough to hold the lamb, spread out the vegetables, herbs and peppercorns. Season the lamb generously with salt. Set the lamb on top of the vegetables and roast for about 25 minutes, until the lamb is lightly browned.
  • Step 2 Add the stock to the pan and cover the pan with foil. Reduce the oven temperature to 300° and braise the lamb for 2 hours. Uncover the lamb and cook for 1 hour longer, until deeply browned on top and the meat is very tender. Let the lamb rest in the juices for 15 minutes, then transfer it to a carving board. Strain the cooking juices, discarding the solids, and spoon off the fat. Slice the lamb 1/4 inch thick and serve with some of the cooking juices.
  • Step 3 Serve with roasted vegetables and with the quark noodles or with the Italian gnocchi.

Italian bigné for Father’s day and for Pentecote

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Citrus bergamia, the bergamot orange, is a fragrant citrus fruit the size of an orange, with a yellow or green color similar to a lime, depending on ripeness. Genetic research into the ancestral origins of extant citrus cultivars found bergamot orange to be a probable hybrid of lemon and bitter orange.

The word bergamot is etymologically derived from the Italian word bergamotto, ultimately of Turkish origin: bey armudu or bey armut (“lord’s pear” or “lord pear”). Citrus bergamia is a small tree that blossoms during the winter. The juice tastes less sour than lemon, but more bitter than grapefruit. Be aware of that the bergamot orange is unrelated to the herbs known as bergamot, wild bergamot, bergamot mint, or bergamint –and Eau de Cologne mint (the taxonomy of which is disputed). Those latters are all in the mint family, and are named for their similar aroma.

Production

The bergamot is a citrus fruit native to southern Italy. Production is mostly limited to the Ionian sea coastal areas of the province of Reggio di Calabria in Italy, to such an extent that it is a symbol of the entire city. Most of the bergamot comes from a short stretch of land there, where the temperature is favourable. The fruit is also produced in Argentina, Brazil, Algeria, the Ivory Coast, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, and South-East Asia.

Citrus bergamot is commercially grown in southern Calabria (province of Reggio), southern Italy. It is also grown in southern France and the Ivory Coast for the essential oil and in Antalya in southern Turkey for its marmalade. The fruit is not generally grown for juice consumption. However, in Mauritius where it is grown on a small-scale basis, it is largely consumed as juice by the locals. Usualy extracts have been used as an aromatic ingredient in food, tea, snus, perfumes, and cosmetics (but bergamot may cause skin irritation). Use on the skin can increase photosensitivity, resulting in greater damage from sun exposure. One hundred bergamot oranges yield about three ounces (85g) of bergamot oil.

Adulteration with cheaper products such as oil of rosewood and bergamot mint has been a problem for consumers. To protect the reputation of their produce, the Italian government introduced tight controls, including testing and certificates of purity. The Experimental Station for Essential Oil and Citrus By-Products) located in Reggio di Calabria, was the quality control body for the essential oil Bergamotto di Reggio Calabria DOP during World War II, Italy was unable to export to countries such as the Allied powers. Rival products from Brazil and Mexico came on to the market as a substitute, but these were produced from other citrus fruits such as sweet lime.

An essence extracted from the aromatic skin of this sour fruit is used to flavour Earl Gray and Lady Grey teas, as well as confectionery (including Turkish delights). Bergamot is one of the most common “casings” (flavorings) added to Swedish snus, a form of smokeless tobacco product.

Fragrance Bergamot oil is one of the most commonly used ingredients in perfumery. It is prized for its ability to combine with an array of scents to form a bouquet of aromas that complement each other. Bergamot is a major component of the original Eau de Cologne composed by Jean-Marie Farina at the beginning of the 18th century in Germany. The first use of bergamot oil as a fragrance ingredient was recorded in 1714, and can be found in the Farina Archive in Cologne. However, much “Bergamot oil” is today derived instead from eau de Cologne mint also known as bergamot mint, which is a variety of water mint and is unrelated to citrus.

Toxicology

In several patch tests studies, application of some sources of bergamot oil directly to the skin of guinea pig was shown to have a concentration-dependent phototoxic effect of increasing redness after exposure to ultraviolet light (due to the chemical bergapten and possibly also citropten, bergamottin, geranial, and neral). This is a property shared by many other citrus fruits and other members of Rutacea including Rue). Bergapten has also been implicated as a potassium channel blocker; in one case study, a patient who consumed four litres of Earl Gray tea per day (which contains bergamot essential oil as a flavouring) suffered muscle cramps.

Italian bigné for father’s day with bergamot oil

I have an Italian friend, Luca who is fond of bergamot! He has told me several times that his “Mama” prepares the best Bigné with it. But what is bigné? -I asked him on the other day. And he was laughing meanwhile told the next:

“In my village the well known and beloved dolce (dessert) is the Bignè di San Giuseppe (St. Joseph’s beignet/Father’s Day Cream Puffs) they are deep-fried choux pastry puffs and filled with pastry cream and dusted with powdered sugar. There are many version of this delicacy. My mom’s recipe is for the Roman version of Bignè di San Giuseppe, it’s heaven on Earth,-exagerates Luca just thinking of it and licks his lips meanwhile continues the story of the Bigné. “The cream filled puffs are surprisingly light and fluffy and on the top of that they are easy to make.

“To find the appropriate word to describe this sweet “extravaganza” that used to reign in Luca’s family for Father’s Day (celebrated on March 19th in Italy) is difficult, while they have become a mixture of three region’s: his mother Franca, is from Palermo, Sicily, and his father, Salvatore is from Naples. After living Sicily for Tuscany, Luca’s parents moved to Pontremoli, because of his father’s job. So in this recipe THREE different traditional treats appear to celebrate Father’s day. They had: Zeppole di San Giuseppe from Naples, Sfinci from Palermo and Bignè di San Giuseppe from Rome. To make it clear you need some more elaborate explanation:

“The Sicilian Sfinci are deep-fried too but covered (yep, on top not filled) with the cannoli filling (ricotta with sugar, cinnamon, and chocolate chips) on top and then sprinkled with pistachios. Candied cherry and orange complete this pure joy.

The Neapolitan Zeppole are baked or fried, topped with cream pastry and crowned by an amarena flavored cherry.

And my mom’s version is the Roman variety in which the method for make Bignè is the same as pate à choux or éclairs. It’s pretty precise, so “Cara Silvestra”(that’s me) you need a scale. 

Ingredients for 50 Pastry Puffs: 500 g water, 125 g butter, 7 g salt, 300 g all-purpose flour, SIFTED a couple of times (don’t skip this step), 500 g eggs (usually 500g are from 10 eggs but check by weight them, they need to be the same weight of water) at room temperature, Vegetable oil for frying

For the Pastry Cream: 460 g whole milk, 6 egg yolks 120 g sugar 60 g corn starch, bergamot orange juice and rind or Lemon rind and Vanilla extract, icing sugar to dust for final decoration

Instructions:

Starting with the pastry puffs Note: you can make one day ahead the choux pastry dough and keep it in the fridge.

In a medium saucepan, combine water, butter, and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon until the butter has melted completely. Reduce heat to low and add flour. Stir the ingredients vigorously until a ball-shaped dough forms and a white film forms on the bottom of the saucepan (about 5 minutes). Remove from the heat and let it rest a few minutes so it’s not too hot for the eggs. Add just one egg at a time and incorporate well each before adding the next one. Do this until you have a thick cream. It’s possible that you won’t need all the eggs.

In a deep saucepan heat the oil to 370 degrees (If you don’t have a frying thermometer place a toothpick into the oil if it starts bubbling all around the temperature is good). Use two tablespoons to scoop out the dough and drop it carefully and gently into the hot oil, by using one spoon to push the dough off of the other. Do this for about 4 bignè at a time, do not crowd them in the pot. Cook until golden and puffy, turning with a slotted spoon to fry evenly on all sides. (If they brown too quickly it means the oil is too hot). The bignè require long frying, like 7/8 minutes as after 3 minutes you will notice they will pop and almost double in size and they have to keep frying to be fully cooked. When done place on a paper towel and let them cool.

Now make the pastry cream: This recipe is particularly made for the bignè because it’s very thick and it’s perfect to fill the puffs. I like to use the Montersino method (he is a famous Italian Pastry Maestro) to make this pastry cream because it’s quick and super easy. My mother has made it many times without failing so I really recommend it. Basically, you wait for the liquids to slightly boil, add the eggs beaten with the starch, and wait few seconds without touching it until it makes a big bubble. After that, all you need is just to whisk a for a little and it’s ready. More specifically: In a medium saucepan heat the milk with vanilla extract/bergamot or lemon rind. Meanwhile, beat very well the eggs with sugar, add cornstarch and mix gently with a spatula. When the milk starts bubbling on the sides of the pan it’s time to pour the mounted eggs and wait, without stirring. As soon as the milk goes over the eggs making a small volcano it’s time to quickly whisk the pastry cream for a few seconds and it’s ready! Remove the lemon rind (I love to eat it when it’s cool) if you used it, and cover with cling film touching the pastry cream to avoid the creation of any film on top. When the cream has cooled, it’s time to fill the bignè. Using a skewer or a piping nozzle make a hole in your pastry bun and fill with pastry cream using a piping bag. Pipe more on top and dust with powdered sugar. 

Tulip, Love and the Persian New Year

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The superstar of the spring there is no doubt that the tulip is. They can take centre stage like no other flower can, creating unforgettable spring shows. Because the tulip is truly an extraordinary flower. It has a past steeped in legend and has been a muse for art and poetry, it has obsessed nations, and enthralled sultans. Here is one of the exotic legends of its origin from the 6th century. The tale goes…In Persian folklore, the first tulip is said to have bloomed from the blood of star crossed lovers, Farhad and Shirin, in a tale reminiscent of the infamous Romeo and Juliet.

A lowly stone cutter, Farhad, loved the Princess Shirin, and wanted to win her heart. When she heard of this, she would have none of it, and would not even see him, what would she want with a lowly tradie? So Farhad took to the hills with his flute and made beautiful music in praise of Princess Shirin. He fasted as he pined for his love, and soon the villagers made him the talk of the town. They saw Farhad’s plight and felt for him, so they conspired that the two should meet. Princess Shirin was led into the mountain’s forest by her courtesan and when she saw Farhad and heard his music, she fell in love.

The father isn’t happy When her father, the Shah heard that his only daughter had fallen for someone beneath her he was not happy. He could see that she loved him, but was adamant that she should not. He was no dummy, he knew if he told her no, then he may lose her, so he devised a clever plan. He decreed that Farhad, being a commoner, must complete a task, a task that no man could complete. A task that heroes would run from, and only if he was able to do this could he have any hope of ever being with his beloved princess. Now, you might think that that is clever, but it is not the best bit. He had Shirin ask this of Farhad, as a task she wanted complete.

So Princess Shirin went to Farhad and asked  him to dig a canal through the bedrock of the hills. Not just any canal mind you, it had to be six lances wide and three lances deep, oh and forty miles long! She appears quite high maintenance by today’s standards!

Farhad didn’t blink, he loaded up his spade and headed for the hills. He laboured tirelessly for years. From dawn to dark he worked his spade, building the canal, and he was making real progress. The princess would visit, in secret to watch him work, falling deeper and deeper in love – he must have been rippling with muscles by this stage!

Word reached the Shah that Farhad had almost completed his task. The clever trick was not going to plan. The Shah sought council from his cunning Viziers. Together they plotted to send one of the princesses courtiers to tell Farhad that Shirin was dead, hoping that with a broken heart he would give up and go away.

So the courtesan was sent to tell Farhad that the princess was dead. He did not believe her, but was eventually convinced. Then, overcome by grief, Farhad used his spade to take his life, and his blood flowed into the canal.

Things didn’t go according to plan When news reached Princess Shirin she ran to the mountains to see if it was true. Upon seeing him, she then took her own life. Where they lay together, their scarlet blood pooled, and each drop formed a tulip. Ensuring their love will live forever.”

Unhappy end…but at least the tulip has become the most cherished flower since… The Iranian celebrate the spring with this flower at Nowruz‘s time, which is the name of the Iranian New Year, also known as the Persian New Year but it is celebrated worldwide by various ethno-linguistic groups usually on or around March 21 on the Gregorian calendar. Nowruz has Iranian and Zoroastrian origins; however, it has been celebrated by diverse communities for over 3,000 years in Western Asia, Central Asia, the Caucasus, the  Black Sea Basin, the Balkans, and South Asia. It is a secular holiday for most celebrants that is enjoyed by people of several different faiths, but remains a holy day for Zoroastrians, Bahá’ís, and some Muslim communities. Nowruz is the day of the vernal equinox and marks the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It marks the first day of the first month (Farvardin) of the Iranian calendars. The moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator and equalizes night and day is calculated exactly every year, and families gather together to observe the rituals. While Nowruz has been celebrated since the reform of the Iranian Calendar in the 11th century CE to mark the new year, the United Nation officially recognized the “International Day of Nowruz” in 2010.

Sweet dates balls

House cleaning and shopping

House cleaning, or shaking the house (xāne tekāni) is commonly done before the arrival of Nowruz. People start preparing for Nowruz with a major spring cleaning of their homes and by buying new clothes to wear for the New Year, as well as the purchase of flowers. The hyacinth and the tulip are popular and conspicuous.

Visiting family and friends

During the Nowruz holidays, people are expected to make short visits to the homes of family, friends and neighbors. Typically, young people will visit their elders first, and the elders return their visit later. Visitors are offered tea and pastries, cookies, fresh and dried fruits and mixed nuts or other snacks. Many Iranians throw large Nowruz parties in as a way of dealing with the long distances between groups of friends and families.

Haft-sin

Typically, before the arrival of father Nowruz, family members gather around the Haft-sin table and await the exact moment of the March equinox to celebrate the New Year. Traditionally, the Haft-sin (seven things beginning with the letter sin are

  • sabze– wheat barley, mung bean or lentil sprouts grown in a dish.
  • samanu– sweet pudding made from wheat germ
  • senjed -Persian olive oil
  • serke-vinegar
  • sib-apple
  • sir-garlic
  • somāq-sumac

The Haft-sin table may also include a mirror, candles, painted eggs, a bowl of water, goldfish, coins, hyacinth, tulip and traditional confectioneries. A “book of wisdom” such as the Quran, Bible, Avesta, the Sahname or the divān of Hafez may also be included. Haft-sin’s origins are not clear. The practice is believed to have been popularized over the past 100 years.

In Iran, the traditional heralds of the festival of Nowruz are Amu Nowruz and Haji Firuz, who appear in the streets to celebrate the New Year. Amu Nowruz brings children gifts, much like his counterpart Santa Claus. He is the husband of Nane Sharma, with whom he shares a traditional love story in which they can meet each other only once a year (one more love story!) He is depicted as an elderly silver-haired man with a long beard carrying a walking stick, wearing a felt hat, a long cloak of blue canvas, a sash, giveh, and linen trousers. Haji Firuz, a character with his face and hands covered in soot, clad in bright red clothes and a felt hat, is the companion of Amu Nowruz. He dances through the streets while singing and playing the tambourine. In the traditional songs, he introduces himself as a serf trying to cheer people whom he refers to as his lords. His face is covered in soot, and he is clad in bright red clothes and a felt hat. He dances through the streets while singing and playing a tambourine. In the traditional songs, he introduces himself as a serf trying to cheer people whom he refers to as his lords. As a black-faced serf, he is a controversial character, seen as symbolically racist. Therefore, half of his face is sometimes painted white in order to avoid the criticisms. According to some sources, Hajji Firuz is based on a tradition called Mir Nowruzi. Mir Nowruz was a comical figure chosen to rule the municipality for “the last five days of the year” (Panje). The temporary “five-day king” (Šāh e Panj Ruze) would often parade the city with a group of singers and dancers for the Nowruz celebrations

Later, it was claimed that the blackened face of Hajji Firuz symbolizes his returning from the world of the dead, his red clothing is the sign of the blood of Siavash and the coming to life of the sacrificed deity, while his joviality is the jubilation of rebirth, typical of those who bring rejuvenation and blessing along with themselves. Bahar speculates that the name Siyāwaxš might mean ‘black man’ or ‘dark-faced man’ and suggests that the term black in the name may be a reference either to the blackening of the faces of the participants in the aforementioned Mesopotamian ceremonies, or to the black masks that they wore for the festivities.

Oven baked sweet potato with kidney beans

The Lord of the Snowdrop

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Valentin Wijnen, the Belgian “galantophil”, has a unique collection of snowdrops, the largest and most diverse in Belgium. He has more than 650 named and about 150 unnamed snowdrops in his collection. This means that almost all 21 snowdrop species are represented in his garden, along with several groups of brand new snowdrops in yellow and green colours.

Walking in the Snowdrop Empire

The snow has already melted when we arrive in Hoeselt, in Februari, in the former French town. We’re welcomed by rain and gusty winds, – the valey of Haspengouw provides of the wet climate of the precipitation, -but when we see the Snowdrop man’s house, our bad mood have gone.

Above the gate there is an inscription, says: “Grakes Heredij.” The name initially suggests that Valentin chose an English-sounding name for his English garden from this side of the Channel, but when the Lord of Snowdrop rushes to our greeting, he quickly makes it clear to us that “Grakes” (Gerard) was his grandfather’s nickname, and that where snowdrop paradise is now, was a heredij. “Heredij,” in the local dialect, means “beautiful house, well organized garden. Like this one.” -he adds, with no small pride.

-“When snowdrops come out from under the snow, I’m still as impressed as I was when I was a child.”- That’s how Mr. Valentine starts the tour. And how his passion for snowdrops arose, he says: -“My parents and I lived near vicinity of a park belonging to a monastery. There was a lot of galanthus blooming,- that’s the botanical name for snowdrops,- well, one day I dug up a few and took them home. Of course, my parents weren’t happy, but when they saw that I just couldn’t get enough of seeing the flowers, they put up with it. And that love has been going on ever since.”- My youngest daughter and I then look stealthily at each other and find that when Mr. Valentin talks about his snowdrops, he behaves like a young man in love. One thing’s for sure, his enthusiasm is perceptible. -“Snowdrops are my muse, they are the best part of the spring.” –he continues.-” I can’t help but I have a strong, excited feeling every year when these flowers appear. It’s as if the arrival of spring is ringing bells to my ears. Besides, why else would they call them snowdrops? (In German they are called Schneeglöckhen, means: Snowbells)

As we walk through his empire, we soon find out that Valentine and his wife Melanie’s romantic garden is a work of art. Everything carefully designed, divided by theme or color, with historical and decorative elements made them individual. -“I prefer the English garden style.”- Valentine notes. -“I’ve been loyal to this from the beginning.” -Well, the result of his obsession became a magnificent garden that couldn’t be more perfect.

Mr Valentine then tells us all about snowdrops and his impressive collection during our walk. Some of them have their own tribes, such as Galanthus Melanie or Galanthus Jolie, which he named after his wife. Valentine’s Day, a Galanthus nivalis, is a type of snowdrop that was discovered by Mr Valentin’s wife in their garden on February 14, 2004. This variety is the first registered, reverse pokuliform snowdrop, which means that all six flower leaves are the same. This is the most treasured place in Mr Valentin’s garden, where the most valuable and rarest types of snowdrops can be found.

Chess flower-or snake heads

-“Of the approximately 6-7 snowdrop species included in my culture, you can see nearly 300 varieties, including several natural and garden hybrids. A lot of my own kind carry my salute to my grandfather on my behalf. Grake, whose real name was Gerard Schoefs and was a postman, but he is remembered by his beautiful garden by everyone.”-Valentine says.

The garden behind the house, where there is a gorgeous blue veranda and conservatory, complete with a few garden rooms, populated with sumptuous ornaments and antiques. The shelves, the boxes are packed with all sorts of blue decorative elements, and the many accolades, awards and diplomas are also kept here by Valentin.- “Blue dominates the conservatory!”-somebody says aloud.- “That’s because it fits the bluish-gray hue of the snowdrop leaves.” -answers Melanie.- In addition to snowdrops, Christroses, Crocuses and Muscari, they are present throughout the garden, carefully labelled for all species. The “galanthophile” Valentin, the enthusiastic snowdrop collector and identifier, then pulls out a mirror to examine the snowdrop bell just in front of us. -“Because it’s kind of powerful, it’s worthy of being in the best part of the garden, among the best group. It’s still one of our best Galanthus nivalis.”-judges he his hibrid.- “This became the Galanthus Valentin’s Day as the first pterugiformes Galanthus nivalis recognized by the Dutch KNBV (Koninklijke Nederlandse Bloembollen Vereniging) Committee. The term “pterugiform” refers to the flower anatomy in which the outer petals take the shape of the inner petals. If they’re exactly the same shape, we’re talking about “perfect” pterugiform snowdrops.” -The explanation is a little bit beyond us, but we nod fervently. As we leave the garden, we see real, fanatical “galanthophiles” slipping on their knees on the wet ground to photograph the flowers. At the back of the garden there is an authentic vegetable garden and a chicken-hen house, also with photogenic chickens.

And that’s when we get to the end of our walk, thanking Mr. Valentine and his entire family for coming with us, patiently answering our questions, and for naming the flowers to get to know the members of the family by name, who, as to the real celebrities, gave their names to some sort of snowdrops. Galanthus nivalis-hatch snowdrops “Melanie S” (after his wife Melanie), Galanthus elwesii -“Senne’s Sunrise” (after his son, whose name is Senne) is a magnificent snowdrop variety, a sign that it is relatively large in stature, with a stalk up to 20-25 centimeters in height. It sprouts as early as November, and sometimes begins to flourish at the end of December. Its leaves are wide, greyish green, and the outer side of the inner shroud leaves, depending on the variant, is green at the base and tip, or only at the tip, or green all the way through. Galanthus Elwesii, “Sweet Alice” (after her mother Alice) and Galanthus nivalisRobert Wijnen” (after Valentine’s father). Finally Melanie offers us a delicious soup, with coffee and cake.

-“You always have to be sure of the style of the garden. And the most important thing is the harmony.” With this advice, says good bye Mr. Valentine. Well, I think he did it perfectly.

If you want to immerse yourself in a world that is still quite unknown in many parts of Europe and want to enchant in the realm of magnificent snowdrops, Valentin Wijnen’s garden is open to visitors, after prior arrangement!

Rose hip cake

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The rose hip or rosehip, also called rose haw and rose hep, is the accessory fruit of the rose plant. It is typically red to orange, but ranges from dark purple to black in some species. Rose hips begin to form after successful pollination of flowers in spring or early summer, and ripen in late summer through autumn.

Roses are propagated from hips by removing the achenes that contain the seeds from the hypanthium (the outer coating) and sowing just beneath the surface of the soil. The seeds can take many months to germinate. Most species require chilling (stratification), with some such as Rosa Canina only germinating after two winter chill periods have occurred.

Rose hips are used for  herbal tea, jam, jelly, syrup, rose hip, beverages, pies, bread, wine marmalade. They can also be eaten raw, like a berry, if care is taken to avoid the hairs inside the fruit.

A few rose species are sometimes grown for the ornamental value of their hips, such as Rosa moyesii which has prominent large red bottle-shaped fruits.

Rose hips are commonly used as a herbal tea, often blended with hibiscus and an oil is also extracted from the seeds. They can also be used to make jam, jelly, marmalade, and rose hip wine. Rose hip soup “nyponsoppa”, is especially popular in Sweden. Rhodomel, a type of mead, is made with rose hips.

Rose hips can be used to make pálinka the traditional Hungarian fruit brandy popular in Hungary, Romania, and other countries sharing Austro-Hungarian history. Rose hips are also the central ingredient of Cockta, the fruity-tasting national soft drink of Slovenia. Its main ingredient comes from dog rose hip; the other ingredients come from 11 different herbs, lemon and orange. Its original variant contains neither caffeine nor orthophosphoric acid.

The fine hairs found inside rose hips are used as itching powder. Dried rose hips are also sold for primitive crafts and home fragrance purposes. The Inupiat mix rose hips with wild redcurrant and highbush cranberries and boil them into a syrup.

Wild rose hip fruits are particularly rich in vitamin C, containing 426 mg per 100 g or 0.4% by weight. However, the fresh rose hips and several commercially available products revealed a wide range of  L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C). Use of rose hips is not considered an effective treatment for knee osteoarthritis.

In  the literure

The rose hip is the subject of a group of folk puzzles that have been handed down since the 16th century. The children’s song written by Hoffmann von Fallersleben: A man stands in the forest was inspired by the rose hip.

“HG Butte” or “HGbutte” is an old running gag in the Bundeswehr, Germany, which is still used jokingly. it refers to the HG (main liberated) Butte (call name), which quickly sounds like “Hagebutte”.

Rose hip cake

The recipe ingredients: 2 cups flour, 1/4 cup rosehip powder, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 3/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons cinnamon powder, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg powder, 1/8 teaspoon clove powder, 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup honey, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 2 large eggs, at room temperature, 1 1/2 cups milk
For the coating: 1/4 cup dried de-cored rosehip 3/4 cup apple juice 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened 8 ounces cream cheese, softened 1/2 cup honey

Place rose hip berries into a bowl, Pour over apple syrup. Place into the fridge overnight.

Next day preheat oven for 375 Farenheit or 180 degrees. Put the flour, rose hip flour, baking powder, soda, and spices into a bowl. Mix them well. In an other bowl mix the butter (room temperature) with honey well add vanilla extract and eggs. Stir them evenly. Pour flour mixture over butter mixture. Stir well all ingredients. Pour the massa in a spring torta form. Place into the oven and bake for 50 minutes or until the cake is baked.

Meanwhile prepare the frosting from the rose hip berries (were soaked in apple juice) and add butter and cheese (Philadelphia or Mascarpone) and the honey. When all ingredients are well stirred you can cover with it your cake. Enjoy!

Pumpkin festival in Germany/Ludwigsburg

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The fall is just around the corner. What better way to celebrate than to visit the world’s largest pumpkin festival in southwestern Germany? You probably never knew that there are 800 different kinds of pumpkin in the world and at the Blooming Baroque (Blühenden Barock), the gardens surrounding Ludwigsburg Residential Palace, is home to this annual event with over 600 varieties and over 450,000 pumpkins on display for all to see.

Facts: Each year the festival chooses a new theme keeping return visitors coming back again and again. The theme for 2016 was Rome, 2019 was “Fantastic World of Fairytales” and this year, in 2020 the theme is “Music.” As you make your way around, be sure to have your camera ready. You will see hundreds of thousands of pumpkins transform into interesting creations. The imagination and planning put into the design of these displays are mind-blowing. My respect to all of those working hard behind the scenes to make this event a success! Chapeau!

Food: Be sure to bring your appetite. There are plenty of pumpkin-inspired foods and drinks, and if you are lucky some free samples along the way. Delicious pumpkin beers, pumpkin lattes, champagnes and wines are available. The food menu has plenty to offer to range from pumpkin muffins, pumpkin soup, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin burgers, (it was excellent) spaghetti with pumpkin and the list goes on and on. Not a fan of pumpkin? Don’t worry there is plenty of traditional German fare to choose from, as well.

Shopping: For those of you eager to take a pumpkin home, there is a large array of pumpkins for purchase and even carving kits, too. In a shopping area and vendors to find decorative and food items such as: pumpkin Secco, pumpkin tea, a variety of pumpkin spice mixes for soups and other dishes, pumpkin ketchup, pumpkin fruit spread, roasted pumpkin seeds and so on, endless…

Just walking the grounds of Ludwigsburg’s Residential Palace warrants a trip in itself. As one of Germany’s largest Baroque palaces, the palace and the grounds are a must-see while visiting the area. If time allows, guided tours of the inside of the palace are offered in multiple languages. Not to mention, by purchasing admission to the pumpkin festival you will also have access to the infamous fairy tale gardens with over 30 scenes and activities for children big and small. The gardens include a funky little cave/tunnel that leads you from one part of the gardens into a little aviary where you could see a small collection of birds and ducks.

From the well-manicured landscaping to the dreamy fountains and impressive architecture, this is definitely a sight you will not want to miss. Add in some seasonable fun and it makes a perfect day trip for the whole family. Something that I did not expect to see was a huge display of pumpkins labeled with their origin country. I found it fascinating to look at all the different varieties of pumpkins and to see where each one originated from. I definitely recommend stopping by this interesting showcase of pumpkins.

Events: The festival hosts numerous special events on designated dates (from the end of August-to the end of December). Ranging from pumpkin carving contests to smashing pumpkins, to pumpkin weigh-ins to ‘tales from the pumpkin patch’, a beloved storytime for children, to the largest pot of pumpkin soup in Germany cooked and served to visitors.

But my favorite event of all is the German pumpkin paddling championship. Where competitors race in giant hollowed-out gourds to victory across the castle lake!

Germany’s biggest pumpkin soup

In keeping with the tradition, the pumpkin chefs of the Pumpkin Gourmet whip up the biggest pumpkin soup in Germany each year.  This way, the Pumpkin Festival at Blühendes Barock in Ludwigsburg can once again did a good deed: for every dish of the record-breaking soup sold, they donate up to 1 Euro to the Helferherz campaign in the district of Ludwigsburg! And to raise as much as possible, the soup has to be enormous: the pot holds 555 litres of pumpkin soup and around 2000 servings. The pumpkin chefs are happy to swing their wooden spoons to ensure that even this huge amount of soup will taste delicious. If the pot is finished, the Pumpkin Festival organizer (Jucker Farm) will donate a further 50 cents per portion, to make the donation amount 1 Euro per portion consumed. So “lick your bowls clean” on one weekend and have set a goal of finishing the enormous pot of soup not just once, but twice!

Celebrating Midsummer night in the vodka belt region

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Midsummer is the period of time centered upon the summer solstice, and more specifically the northern European celebrations that accompany the actual solstice or take place on a day between June 19 and June 25 and the preceding evening. The exact dates vary among different cultures. The celebration predates Christianity, and existed under different names and traditions around the world. In Scandinavia, young people visited holy springs as “a reminder of how John the Baptist baptized Christ in the River Jordan

On Saint John’s Eve and Saint John’s Day, churches arrange Saint John’s worship services and family reunions also occur, which are an occasion for drinking and eating.

In Denmark, the solstitial celebration is called sankthans or sankthansaften (“St. John’s Eve”). It was an official holiday until 1770, and in accordance with the Danish tradition of celebrating a holiday on the evening before the actual day, it takes place on the evening of 23 June. It is the day where the medieval wise men and women (the doctors of that time) would gather special herbs that they needed for the rest of the year to cure people.

Bonfires on the beach, speeches, picnics and songs are traditional, although they are built in many other places where beaches may not be close by (i.e. on the shores of lakes and other waterways, parks, etc.) Bonfires are lit in order to repel witches and other evil spirits, with the burnings sending the “witch” away to Bloksbjerg, the Brocken mountain in the Harz region of Germany where the great witch gathering was thought to be held on this day. Some Danes regard this tradition of burning witches as inappropriate.

As in Denmark, Sankthansaften is celebrated on June 23 in Norway. The day is also called Jonsok, which means “John’s wake”, important in Roman Catholic times with pilgrimages to churches and holy springs. Today, Sankthansaften is largely regarded as a secular or even pre-Christian event. In Western Norway, a custom of arranging mock weddings, both between adults and between children, is still kept alive. The wedding was meant to symbolize the blossoming of new life. Such weddings are known to have taken place in the 1800s, but the custom is believed to be older.

In Sweden, the Midsummer “Midsomer” is such an important festivity that there have been proposals to make the Midsummer’s Eve into the National day of Sweden instead of June 6. (In Denmark and Norway, it may also be referred to as St. Hans Day.)

Acquavit (vodka) sherry, elderberry drink

In Sweden originally a pre-Christian tradition, the holiday has during history been influenced by Christian traditions and the celebration of Saint John, but not as much as to it changing name, as in neighboring Norway and Denmark. A central symbol nowadays is the ‘midsummer pole’, a maypole that is risen on the same day as midsummers eve. The pole is a high wooden pole covered in leaves and flowers. Participants dance around the pole and sing songs. One another Swedish midsummer tradition is that girls should pick seven flowers from seven different fields. The flowers should then be put under the pillow during the midsummer eve night. This night is supposedly magic and the girl is then while sleeping supposed to dream of her future husband. Another tradition common in Sweden is to make midsummer wreaths of flowers. Greenery placed over houses and barns was supposed to bring good fortune and health to people and livestock; this old tradition of decorating with greens continues, though most people no longer take it seriously. To decorate with greens was called att maja (to may) and may be the origin of the word majstång, maja coming originally from the month May, or vice versa. Other researchers say the term came from German merchants who raised the maypole in June because the Swedish climate made it impossible to find the necessary greens and flowers in May, and continued to call it a maypole.

Other traditions include eating pickled herring with fresh potatoes, often the first from the seasons harvest, served with sour cream and chives, and often accompanied by drinking snaps. It is the biggest holiday of the year in Sweden, and with Sweden being a part of the vodka-belt, getting drunk and feasting all the whole day and night is common.

Recipe

Farmer girl in veil” Swedish dessert

In melted butter fry 350 gr bread crumble or use the German pumpernickel bread. Add 2 tablespoons of sugar to it. When it is golden brown pour the crumble into a bowl and let it cool.

Make layers: smear evenly from this crumble to a cake plate, then add apple mousse, then add one layer crumble again and smear raspberry jam on the top, add one more bread crumble layer…etc.

Whip 500 ml cream stiff, flavor with vanilla sugar and cover the crumble cake with it (not only the top but the sides as well). Decorate the cake with raspberry coulis. Easy and delicious midsummer’s cake!

In Sweden Midsummer’s day is a Saturday between June 20 and June 26, but as is usual in Sweden the actual celebration is on the eve, i.e. a Friday between June 19 and June 25. Midsummer’s Eve is a de facto public holiday in Sweden with offices and many shops closed

Gentleman cake with white wine cream

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The lilac is a very popular ornamental plan in gardens and parks, because of its attractive, sweet-smelling flowers, which appear in early summer (rather late spring, in May) just before many of the roses and other summer flowers come into bloom.

During centuries it has been widely naturalized in western and northern Europe.

Lilacs are often considered to symbolize love (see language of flowers). In Greece, Lebanon, and Cyprus, the lilac is strongly associated with Easter time because it flowers around that time; it is consequently called paschalia.

In the poem ” When Lilacs last in the Dooryard Bloom’d”, by Walt Whitman, lilacs are a reference to Abraham Lincoln.

In a sign of its complete naturalization in North America, it has been selected as the state flower of the state of New Hampshire, because it “is symbolic of that hardy character of the men and women of the Granite State”.

Some cultivars

Between 1876 and 1927, the nurseryman Victor Lemoine of Nancy, France introduced over 153 named cultivars, many of which are considered classics and still in commerce today. Lemoine’s “French lilacs” extended the limited color range to include deeper, more saturated hues, and they also introduced double-flowered “sports”, with the stamens replaced by extra petals.

Lilac in the kitchen

I didn’t know that the flowers of the lilacs are edible and even have some medicinal qualities. But eating a single flower raw was a flavor exploding experience with slight astringency (drying to tissues), almost bitter, and very floral.

Medicinal lilac

Medicinal uses are still a gray area when it comes to just the flower. Most resources that I have found (a Modern Herbal) list that the medicinal benefits of Lilac come from the leaves and fruit. Apparently used as a tea or infusion historically it has been used as a anti-periodic. Anti-periodic basically means that it stops the recurrence of disease such as malaria. There has been some studies that indicate a febrifuge action which may help bring down fever.

Lilac flowers have astringent, aromatic, and a little bitter qualities. Astringents tighten, draw, and dry tissues such as skin. So a wonderful application would be a cold or warm infusion to use as a toner on the face. Or using the same method but apply to rashes, cuts, and other skin ailments.

An aromatic action causes irritation to the place that it is touching (think GI tract) and irritation brings blood flow and blood flow equals healing! Eating the flowers raw may help with gastric issues such as flatulence or constipation. Making an herbal infused oil may be a great way to capture the aromatics for healing purposes and to make your own fragrance oil as well as making lilac jelly syrup, wine liqueur, ice cream, or lilac honey. I would say the lilacs are best for garnishes and edible flower displays on pastries rather than whole meals.

One more point of interest. Lilac wood is supposed to be one of the densest in Europe and has been historically used to make musical instruments such as pipes or flutes. We had to cut down one of our lilac shrubs I am sad to say, however we kept all the branches. I will choose one to make a pipe (hopefully one day soon) and will describe the process in another blog post.

Cake for gentleman

From where I got the inspiration to make a cake with lilac flower? From a German magazin, the Wohnen&Garten. In Germany, like all other countries, meeting up for evening coffee and cake and all the chats is usually a lady‘s thing but there is one exception to bring men on such gatherings, and it is the Herrentorte, the Gentleman’s Tart. In German language Herrentorte means “Cake for Gentlemen”. This dessert consists of several individually baked layers of sponge cake and two layers of wine cream so it tastes less sweet than normal cakes. It is an unwritten traditional that in Germany the birthday cake for men is the Herrentorte.

Recipe for the sponge base: 2 goose eggs or 4 normal hen eggs, 160g brown sugar or 150g caster sugar , 150g plain flour, 1 Earl grey tea bag, Lemon curd or marmalade, 300ml double cream, 5 tbsp icing sugar, Juice of half a lemon, Fresh lilac flowers

For the wine cream filling: 180 ml white wine, 120 gr sugar, 200 gr butter, room temperature, 2 egg whites, and some marzipan

Methods: Preheat the oven to 180c 350f

Grease and line two swiss roll tins.

In the bowl of a stand mixer add the eggs and sugar and mix together until pale and thick  (about 5 minutes)

Empty out the contents of an earl grey tea bag and mix with the flour then tip in the flour 1/4 at a time and fold in gently.

Once combined separate between the two tins and tip the trays to spread the mixture to the corners. Don’t spread it out it will knock out the air.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes then tip out onto a sheet of baking paper dusted with icing sugar (i used lilac sugar) or tip onto the work top and gently peel off the paper.

Spread a thick layer or curd or marmalade onto each sponge and sprinkle over some lilac flowers cut into equal strips horizontally rather than diagonally. (As it is marmalade being spread on this can be done while the cake is still hot but if you want to use cream or buttercream then the sponge has to be cool so roll up one strip and let cool in a rolled position then unroll and spread on filling and roll up again).

For the white wine cream: you need the egg whites, 180 ml white wine, 125 gr sugar, 200 gr butter and some marzipan.  Then put everything in a bowl, place over waterbath and stir until it will be creamy.

Start with the first strip and roll up into a tight roll then get the next piece of sponge and place it where the last piece ended and continue rolling until all the strips are used and you are have large cake. (I made a small one as my tins are not very big)

Now let cool completely. Whip the cream and icing sugar until thick  (I added a little color). Then spread onto cake with a pallet knife and smooth out. Decorate with more lilac flowers.

Orgona torta

 

Witch-hazel blossoming in Vogelsberg

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Vogelsberg (Bird’s hill) is a large volcanic mountain range in the German Central Uplands in the state of Hesse, separated from the Rhön Mountains by the Fulda river valley. Emerging approximately 19 million years ago, the Vogelsberg is Central Europe’s largest basalt formation, consisting of a multitude of layers that descend from their peak in ring-shaped terraces to the base. The main peaks of the Vogelsberg are the Taufstein, 773.0 metres (2,536.1 ft), and Hoherodskopf, 763 meters (2,503 ft), both now within the High Vogelsberg Nature Park.

Vogelsberg is not a former shield volcano, but comprises many individual volcanoes, which are superimposed. Thus it consists of a multitude of overlapping basalt terraces, which descend from the Oberwald, -the high central plateau, 600 to 773 meters high, in series of stepped rings to the edges of the mountain region. Its present appearance, which is reminiscent of a large flat, shield-shaped volcano with a central dome, is the result of an interplay of uplift processes and  ablation acting on all sides. The division of the Vogelsberg into individual  natural regions is based, on the one hand, on the  relief of the mountain range from its highest point towards the outside and, on the other hand, on its river catchments which radiate outwards: the catchments of the Eder, Lower  Fulda, Main and Lahn. The Vogelsberg massif has stone runs of basalt and tuff, raised bogs and areas of ancient woodland. Numerous hiking trails cross, not only the Oberwald, but also the rest of the area.

Oberwald

The Oberwald (351.2) is the heart of the Vogelsberg and is entirely wooded; its outer boundary roughly follows the 600 meter contour line. In outer areas of the Vogelsberg, by contrast, there is a tapestry of green pasture, arable fields and woodlands.

Large parts of the Oberwald are protected. For example, the beech wood in the Taufstein Nature Reserve has been left to manage itself since 1906. On the northern slopes of the Taufstein are large stone runs of basalt.

Numerous rivers and streams rise in the Vogelsberg, and flow radially from its highest point in all directions of the compass. In clockwise order, the rivers of the main catchments are the Schwalm, Lower Fulda, Kinzig, Nidda and Ohm. Often a well known river is fed by several almost equal tributaries. In recent years the Eurasian lynx has returned. There are rumors about wolves being sighted in the region. Sightings have been confirmed in an area north of the Vogelsberg. Wildcats are also said to exist in the region, although they, like lynxes, are notoriously hard to spot. As in most of Hesse, wild boar are present in large numbers.

Vogelsberg’s sport activities

The Vogelsberg is known for its winter sports areas on the Herchenhainer Höhe and Hoherodskopf (Alpine skiing and 55 km of loipes). In summer, apart from hiking, cycling is well catered for on the numerous long-distance cycling routes such as the Volcano Cycleway. Moreover, there are regular RMV buses, the so-called Vulkan Express running from Büdingen, Stockheim, Nidda, Hungen, Mücke and Schlitz via  Lauterbach at weekends to the heights of the Vogelsberg. These buses are equipped with bicycle trailers. The majority of bus routes run to the Hoherodskopf and so may be used in combination.

The Volcano and Southern Railway Cycleways are tarmacked and may also be used by inline skaters. There is a large network of signposted cycleways in and around the Vogelsberg Nature Fitness Park around the highest summits and also 70 km of signed mountain bike routes.

The Hoherodskopf is the touristic centre of the region. Here you will find the Nature Conservation Information Centre for the High Vogelsberg Nature Park and a tourist information centre for the town of Schotten, which are open daily all year-round. From this point, three nature trails have been set up, covering in the fields of geology, nature and sensory perception.  There is a summer toboggan run, a tree ropes course, numerous hiking trails and several restaurants.

What can we see now in the Nature park? The blossoming of the Witch-hazels!

Witch-hazels or witch hazels (Hamamelis), are a genus of flowering plants in the family Hamamelicadea. The North American species are occasionally called winterbloom. (The name witch in witch-hazel has its origins in  Middle English wiche, from the Old English wice, meaning “pliant” or “bendable”, and is not related to the word witch meaning a practitioner of magic “Witch hazel” was used in England as a synonym for Wych Elm . The use of the twigs as divining rods, just as  hazel twigs were used in England, may also have by folk etymology, influenced the “witch” part of the name).

The witch-hazels are deciduous shrubs or (rarely) small trees growing to 10–25 feet tall, rarely to 40 feet tall. The genus name, Hamamelis, means “together with fruit”, referring to the simultaneous occurrence of flowers with the maturing fruit from the previous year. H. virginiana blooms in September–November while the other species bloom from January–March. Each flower has four slender strap-shaped petals, pale to dark yellow, orange, or red. The fruit is a two-part capsule 38 inch (0.95 cm) long, containing a single 14 inch (0.64 cm) glossy black seed in each of the two parts; the capsule splits explosively at maturity in the autumn about 8 months after flowering, ejecting the seeds with sufficient force to fly for distances of up to 30 feet (9.1 m), thus another alternative name “Snapping Hazel”. They are popular ornamental plants, grown for their clusters of rich yellow to orange-red flowers which begin to expand in the autumn as or slightly before the leaves fall, and continue throughout the winter. Numerous cultivars have been selected for use as garden shrubs. hama

 

 

A brilliant day out in Bokrijk

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Bokrijk is a park and historic museum complex in the municipality of Genk in the Province of Limburg, Belgium. It’s well known for its open-air museum which displays a large collection of historical buildings from across Flanders, presenting the history of rural life in Belgium. The domain is 5.5 square kilometers in area and hosts an important botanical garden (arboretum) and also Flanders’ largest open-air playground..

The history of Bokrijk

On March 9, 1252 Arnold IV count of Loon and Chiny sold a forest, that was situated between present Genk, Zonhoven and Hasselt, to the abbey of Herkenrode. This forest was called Buksenrake (‘buk’ =beech, ‘rake’ = a part of land). The name later evolved into Bokrijk. The Cistercian abbey of Herkenrode (in Kuringen near Hasselt) built an abbey farm, dug out fish ponds and started forestry practices. The abbey farm was cultivated by lay brothers and from 1447 onwards functioned as an ordinary tenant farm. It remained the abbey’s property until the years of the French Revolutionary Wars. In 1797 French Revolutionaries seized all properties of the Cistercian abbey and the same year they sold it to a private investor from Maastricht.

Subsequently, the buildings were neglected by many owners until 1890. In that year the Maris-Vanhese family demolished the residential area, but left the outbuildings. They built a neo-classical castle, but were unable to complete it. In 1896 it was sold to the Count de Meeus who did finish the castle. The Count owned a local iron mine until the outbreak of World War I. During the war he sold the land and castle to a Jewish family from Germany. In 1919 the Belgian State seized the land and sold it to the Central Credit Bank of the Farmer’s Union. They set Bokrijk up as a model farm. Due to a crisis and eventual bankruptcy of the Farmers Union, the model farm failed.

The open air museum

On the 21 March 1938 the provincial government of Limburg acquired Bokrijk. Governor Hubert Verwilghen inspired the acquisition. Verwilghen strived for the creation of a public domain that would combine culture and nature. His vision would be realized years later under the dynamic impulse of provincial governor Louis Roppe. On 6 October 1953 the Provincial Council of the Province of Limburg decided to create an open-air museum in Bokrijk. With the post-war industrial revolution and the increasing development projects of the 1950s, Flanders’ living environment was drastically changing. Agricultural buildings of important cultural and historical value for Flanders were disappearing from the landscape. Dr. Jozef Weyns was appointed to coordinate the project and remained in function as first conservator of the Open Air Museum of Bokrijk. The museum opened to the public on 12 April 1958 as contribution of the province of Limburg to the Expo’58 (Brussels World’s Fair).

Nowadays there are 148 authentic buildings that form the heart of the heritage collection. Also in the collection are some 30,000 pieces of everyday life from the 17th century to 1950. It has been designed to be interactive and includes staff who take on the roles of people from different time periods. The oldest building dates back to 1507. Although the emphasis is on farms and farming, there are other examples of village life such as a Smithy, a School, a Church, a Brewery an Inn and several craftsmen buildings. Due to changes in Belgian heritage law, buildings can now only be preserved in situ. So the collection of buildings in Bokrijk that had been moved here from all over Flanders can no longer happen.P1160483

The museum’s preserved buildings are centred in three clusters on the site which are arranged by the geographical region of origins

“Kempen”. This region lies between the Scheldt polders and Maaskant in north-east Flanders. The museum has reproduced the traditional timber based farm dwellings typical of the region as it was over a century ago.

“East and West Flanders”. The region of the museum that represents East and West Flanders has no village setting. Instead there are a number of buildings that show the characteristic work places and housing.

“Haspengouw and the Maasland”. The region of Haspengouw is known for its fruit and traditional square farmsteads. In the museum this region is represented by a copy of the village of Ulbeek as it would have looked in the 19th century. The buildings are arranged around the village square with two ponds and predominantly lime trees. Actors provide interactive experiences in the church and the school.P1160531

Additionally there is a fourth area dedicated to The Sixties in the south-west corner of the site (it is a must for music lovers).

We really enjoyed every single minute in Bokrijk. It showed clearly and realistically how people used to live and worked in these dark ages. Old country houses, barns, churches, many historic buildings had been moved “brick by brick” to this beautiful site. The many old farmhouses, wind/watermills and even a whole section of old town housing from Antwerp were so amazing. There were several buildings that were manned by craftspeople demonstrating old traditional trades (Lots of old fashioned games to play well set out with instructions in English as well). There were members of staff dressing in period costumes in most of the houses and enacting life in the past. To sum up there was plenty to see even by hop on and off coach and there were cafeteria facilities on site. We spent easily a full day in this lovely “museum” with our kids. At the museum shop professional photographer takes pictures (for 5 euros) of you in old vintage clothes.

Bokrijk