Though the Germans aren’t known for their Halloween celebrations (there are more European traditions like Reformationstag and Martin’s day), they are very into pumpkins. Generally referred to as “Kürbis” which means “squash”, this is a fall staple that must be consumed in mass quantities like Spargel in spring and summer.
So what better place than Germany for the largest pumpkin festival in the world? Taking place on the grounds of a spectacular palace, Schloss Ludwigsburg, over 450,000 pumpkins are on display during Ludwigsburg Kürbis ausstellung (Pumpkin exhibition).
There are 800 different kinds of pumpkins on display from edible to decorative, bumpy to smooth, mammoth to skinny and curvy. With themes like “Pumpkins in Flight” or “The Pumpkin Circus is Coming to Town!” “Rome”(this year) pumpkins are transformed into elaborate action scenes and art pieces acrobatics, clowns, knife throwers and more.
Hundreds of thousands of festive pumpkins are on display every day, but there are several can’t miss events during the festival. It runs from 1st of September until 5th of November! Here is the event calendar:
Pumpkin festival Grounds
The largest pumpkins of the festival are on display again, this time being cut into by famed pumpkin artists. Watch as they cut into orangey flesh to create giant, organic masterpieces. Watch for famed US Pumpkin carver Ray Villafane and his team from 15th to 18th of September. The audience will judge which giant pumpkin is best transformed.
Pumpkin regatta Sunday, September 18 at 12:30 South Garden, Blühendes Barock
It is surprising what will float…like a pumpkin. The annual pumpkin boat race is a highlight of the Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival. Daring canoeists try to steer hollowed-out giant pumpkins across the lake as fast as they can
German Pumpkin Championship on Sunday Oct 2 at 13:30 in the South Garden Blühendes Baroque
The heaviest pumpkins from Germany step up to the scales. So far the German record was 812,5 kg (1,791 lbs).
European Pumpkin Championship on Sunday October 9 at 13:30
Following the German Championship heavy weights from around Europe will compare their girth for this competition. In 2013 the world heaviest pumpkin was 1,053 kg (2,322 pounds) making first in history to surpass the 1,000 kg mark.
Giant Pumpkin Carving on Sunday October 16 at 10:00
Halloween pumpkin Carving Sunday October 22 and 29 at 10:00 Carving tents by the pumpkin sales stand if you are missing seeing jack’o lanterns on every corner, watch the experts carve Halloween pumpkins into sinister smiles and try your skills at an artistic design. There is even the chance to win great prizes!
Smashing pumpkins Sunday November 6 at 12:00
Pumpkin Festival grounds to celebrate the end of the season, the winning pumpkins are honored with horrific pummeling. The winners of the Weigh Off are smashed to bits and visitors can take home some of the giants’ seeds. And besides there are plenty interesting programs such as:
Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival for the Kids
The grounds are a fall wonderland for kids and adults alike, but kids can really run free at the Märchengarten -Fairy Tale Garden. Not quite medieval, this kids’ area was built in 1958 and includes interactive sites like a Rapunzel tower, miniature train and boat ride. Children can also observe dioramas of classic German fairytales, some recognizable…some not so much.
All things Pumpkin are on the Menu
What fun is looking at all of these delicious pumpkins if you can’t eat any of them? Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival is happy to oblige with tons of pumpkin-inspired foods and drinks.
Find pumpkin on Flammkuchen (like pizza), in sausage and in Maultaschen. Try Kürbis spaghetti with pumpkin seed pesto or pumpkin burgers and pumpkin fries, find pumpkin in strudel, and in Sekt (champagne) and pumpkin schorle-a non alcoholic beverage with bubbles.
And don’t miss Germany’s biggest bowl of pumpkin soup! Served daily from 11:00 until 17:00 on the weekend of September 24th and 25th. Visitors can enjoy a delicious dish of the record-breaking soup and contribute to charity as 1 euro of each bowl sold is donated to charity.
And if you want to bring a little pumpkin home, there are plenty of delicious pumpkin products. Stands offer everything from pumpkin chutney to pumpkin ketchup to cinnamon-sugar coated pumpkin seeds. Bring your own jug to fill with fresh-pressed apple cider. Take the opportunity to sample everything.
September is a great month for avid collectors, avid eaters and avid chefs because this is when wild mushrooms are seriously hitting the scene. It is on the continent that the enthusiasm for the fungal wonders of nature is most apparent, while in Belgium and Germany we seem always to have been afraid of picking and collecting (maybe is a toadstool?). The cep is the prime wild mushroom-cépe to the French and porcino (little pig) to the Italians. Its round shiny cap looks like the Victorian penny bun, but it will now cost rather more than that. They form trees, in clearings in the woods, and around the edges of woods.
Available too the chanterelle, which is also known as girolle. They are quite often thought to be exactly the same, but are actually different strains of the same species. The girolle is found between months of May and July but it is available between midsummer and autumn as well. And of course in the autumn you also find the black Périgord and the white Alba truffle. They are very precious to the French and the Italians, and how special I have just learned in France, in the home of the truffles.
The black diamond market
On the first Tuesday of August, the main street of an otherwise undistinguished town in south west France was magically transformed by one of the most exciting, adrenaline-pumping and important events in the entire French culinary universe-the opening day of the truffle market in Lalbenque-.Truffle brokers and special restaurant supply buyers from all over France, the UK and beyond would flock to Lalbenque on the Tuesday market day, momentarily swelling this small town’s population by up to a thousand. They were all there for only one purpose, attempting to acquire specimens of perhaps the world’s pre-eminent culinary delicacy.
(Lalbenque is 25 kilometers south of Cahors, and it is the largest truffle market in south western France, and from early December until early March, hundreds of kilos of France’s ‘black diamond’, (Tuber Melanosporum), will be sold in Lalbenque’s weekly truffle market (another truffle market is held at Richerenches in the Vaucluse)
The major of Lalbenque told me that all the fuss about the truffle began in the 18th century, when the French gastronome and author Brillat-Savarin described these truffles as “the diamond of the kitchen”. It resulted that by 1900, France produced 1,000 metric tons of Tuber Melanosporum a year, but incessant demand and the resulting over-harvesting has reduced today’s annual harvest to a mere 20 to 40 metric tons.
Exactly how Lalbenque and Quercy (the capital of the territory) assumed such an important culinary role is not clear-says the mere-but the scrubby calcareous soil of the surrounding area abounds with the twisted small oak trees whose roots have a symbiotic relationship with and host the growth of truffles.
Meanwhile he tries to reveal the secret of the truffle we walk to the market. I can tell you that already itself is simultaneously picturesque and unusual. Specially on market Tuesday, beginning around 2pm, when sellers stand shoulder to shoulder behind benches running in a long line along the main street, displaying the truffles they are offering that day in a basket set on the bench in front of them. Some sellers have but a few truffles, while others have a bounty exceeding several kilos. About a meter in front of the benches is a strategically positioned rope that prospective buyers dare not cross.
The buyers, usually numbering in the several hundreds, stand in front of the rope and engage in discreet conversations with the sellers. Most conversations revolve around weight, since sales prices are calculated in grams and kilos, but occasionally a forward buyer even asks to have a basket handed to him across the rope for a brief inspection, requests that are often declined.
Nervous smiles are exchanged on both sides of the rope, because both buyers and sellers know very well what is about to come. -At exactly 2.30 pm, a rapid fire series of events very quickly ensues. Not a moment before or after, a policeman whistle is sounded, the rope drops to the ground, the buyers charge forward, earnest and somewhat frantic negotiations ensue, and five minutes later, the market is over for that week. What is remarkable is that even though all sales have truffle weight, as well of course quality, as key value drivers, you will never see a scale at Lalbenque. Sellers will tell you what their basket weighs when you ask, but verification is considered an insult.
The opening day of the truffle market at Lalbenque is always the first Tuesday of every month. It is of particular interest because the elders of the organization that runs the market, the Syndicat des Trufficulteurs, in December parade through Lalbenque in long, black ceremonial robes and plumed Three Musketeers-type hats, with golden medallions hanging around their necks. With much ceremonial flourish, the Mayor of Lalbenque declares the market to be open.
Prospective sellers at the Lalbenque market are required to arrive early, and are ushered into a back room at the Marie where syndicat experts sniff, poke pinch, examine and otherwise take steps to assure that this particular batch of truffles are genuine Tuber Melanosporum, and not Chinese counterfeits. The Chinese truffle, Tuber Sinensis, is a decidedly inferior culinary product that is often passed off as a Perigordian black truffle. It is frequently joked in culinary circles that half of the Perigordian truffles sold in London, Tokyo and New York are Chinese. But not at all in Lalbenque. The syndicat verifies Tuber Melanosporum botanical correctness, which gives comfort to buyers and presumably emboldens bidding.
The laws of supply and demand have driven the price of Perigordian black truffles to stratospheric heights. You can expect to pay upwards of €500 a kilo for good quality truffles at Lalbenque (€900 in Paris), and considerably more if summer weather has not been conducive to truffle growth.
Cooking with truffles
Myriad culinary applications of truffles exist (I even saw a recipe for truffle ice cream!), the local recipe book of Vino Veritas offers a few brief suggestions here in Lalbenque. The biggest mistake a would-be truffle chef can make is muddling the delicate and subtle nuances of truffles with other flavors. The food applications that show off truffles the best, in my opinion (but consider please I’m not an expert), are those made with eggs it was Mussolini the dictator’s favorite, rice or potatoes, and very little else. Very little preparation of the truffles themselves is either necessary or desirable. You want to maximize the surface area of the truffles you are using and then heat them for just a bit to bring out the volatile odor elements. Take a one euro vegetable peeler (the expensive truffle shavers are a rip-off), place shavings of truffles in a small saucepan with butter, heat under very low heat for just a few moments, add the truffles to the balance of your chosen dish, and be prepared for oral ecstasy.
Be aware of the shelf life of fresh truffles is about three weeks and it looses its weight day by day. Store them in a tight-lidded container in the refrigerator submerged in aborio rice, which allows a little air circulation but not too much, and facilitates the most delicious risotto long after the truffles themselves have been consumed!
Stuffed cabbage roulade with chanterelle rice
The medlar or common medlar is one of the goofiest fruit in the world. It can be a large shrub or small decorative tree, and the name of the fruit of this tree. It belongs to the rose family and a host of small golden fruits in the autumn. They’re prepared similar to rose hips or backside-scratchers. The fruit has been cultivated since Roman times, and is unusual in being available in winter, and in being eaten when bletted.
It’s latin name is Mespilus germanica which is not logical since it is not ingenuous in Germany rather in Bulgaria, in Turkey and in Hungary. The fruits are hard and acidic, but become edible after being softened, ‘bletted’, by frost, or naturally in storage given sufficient time. Once softening begins, the skin rapidly takes on a wrinkled texture and turns dark brown, and the inside reduces to the consistency and flavor reminiscent of apple sauce. This process can confuse those new to medlars, as a softened fruit looks as if it has spoiled. Once bletted, the fruit can be eaten raw and is often eaten as a dessert, or used to make medlar jam or jelly. They are used in “Medlar cheese”, which is similar to lemon curd, being made with the fruit pulp, eggs, and butter. So-called medlar tea is usually not made from M. germanica but from wolfberry or goji, which is sometimes called “red medlar”.
Cultivars of Mespilus germanica that are grown for their fruit include ‘Hollandia’, ‘Nottingham’, and ‘Russian’, the large-fruited variety ‘Dutch’ (also known as ‘Giant’ or ‘Monstrous’), ‘Royal’, ‘Breda giant’, and ‘Large Russian’.
Medlar in literature
A fruit which is rotten before it is ripe, is used figuratively in literature as a symbol of prostitution or premature destitution. The fruit gets a lot of derision because I’ve been told that in England, they’re referred to as dog’s backsides (arse)…although I did read that the French call it cul de chien.
In literature it is mentioned for example in the Prologue to The Reeve’s Tale, Geoffrey Chaucer’s character laments his old age, comparing himself to the medlar, which he names using the slang term “open-arse”.
In William Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens, Apemantus forces an apple upon Timon: There’s a medlar for thee; eat it”, perhaps including a pun on “meddler”, one who meddles in affairs, as well as on rottenness
In Measure for Measure, Lucio excuses his denial of past fornication because “they would else have married me to the rotten medlar.
In As You Like It, Rosalind makes a complicated pun involving grafting her inter locuter with the trees around her which bear love letters and with a medlar “I’ll graff it with you, and then I shall graff it with a medlar. Then it will be the earliest fruit i’ th’ country; for you’ll be rotten ere you be half ripe, and that’s the right virtue of the medlar. The most famous reference to medlars, often bowdlerized until modern editions accepted it, appears in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, when Mercutio laughs at Romeo’s unrequited love for his mistress Rosaline.
Medlar jam and cake
To return to the present time I don’t think medlars aren’t really popular or even known. For one thing, they share the same name as loquats –nèfles. And, frankly, I don’t know too many people, except my grandma who make their own jam from it. Which works out great for me because I give out homemade jam for gifts.
Before I forgot, my grandma told me once that in Hungary people pick medlars after the frost, which breaks the flesh down as well. SoI plucked a few kilos from the tree of my friend’s and brought them home in order to make medlar jam. I used my grandma’s recipe’s, and as well British cooks’s, (such as Jamie Oliver and Nigel Slater) for guidance because I didn’t know much about how to deal with medlars. Mine took a bit of coaxing to be bletted. I did a little searching around for advice and most advise putting them in a cold place, in a single layer. A few experienced cooks suggested the refrigerator as the place to do it, and I did not realize when I bought it, but was surprised that my refrigerator did indeed have a “bletting chamber.” The first thing you need to know is that medlars need to be bletted, or left to soften and “rot” to a rusty-brown color!
Yet almost a month passed and my medlars were as good as new. As in, they were still rock-hard. So I took them out and put them near a chilly window. And let it behold, those little “arses” softened right up. (Although I think I picked mine a little less-ripe than they should have been.) Next up was cooking them then letting them strain overnight, similar to making apple jelly. Once the liquid is left to strain overnight, you might take a look at the brownish liquid and think that you’ll made a mistake by listening to me. Even I thought there was something wrong. But as I cooked the vicious, murky liquid with some sugar, the final result was a few jars of quivering, shimmering, rosy-red beautiful jelly. I only got two-and-a-half jars from three pounds of fruit, though, so I doubt I’ll be giving these precious jars away. In which case, I’d better get my own “derrière” in gear and find more free fruit, and make more jelly.
Medlar, bananas cake
Ingredients: 6 eggs, ¾ cup heavy cream, ¾ cup vegetable oil, 2½ cups all purpose flour, 3 tbsp baking powder, ½ cup hazelnut flour, 16 ripe Bermuda bananas or 10 regular bananas, 1 cup of medlar purée, 4 cups sugar, a pinch of salt, dashes of vanilla and lemon juice
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter three one-quart kugelforms and dust with flour. Add sugar to eggs, beat until stiff then set aside. Purée bananas, then add vanilla and lemon juice, medlar or loquat purée, heavy cream and vegetable oil. Combine egg mixture with banana mixture.
Mix flour, hazelnut flour, salt and baking powder together. Fold well into banana batter. Fill forms three-quarters full, place on baking tray to ensure browning, and bake for 45 minutes.
Unmould as soon as possible after baking to avoid sogginess and let cool on rack. Bread freezes well if wrapped tightly and frozen same day.
During the month of June and July, so many home-grown summer fruits are at their best, among cherries, currants, gooseberries, raspberries, loganberries and tayberries, and of course the inimitable strawberry. I love cherries in the hand, a great snack, but they equal pleasure cooked, both in sweet and savory dishes. It is said that they are over 2000 varieties of cherries in the planet, and in parts of Italy they claim to have been growing them for at least 2000 years. Most cherries are derived from two species-the sour or Morello cherry and the wild or sweet cherry.
Gooseberries seem to be a particularly British and Hungarian fruit to me, and in fact there aren’t many gooseberry recipes from other countries in Europe. Like cherries, they can be used in both sweet and savory contexts, poached and plain, baked in sweet pies or pounded in a fool, or famously, as a tart sauce to accompany mackerel. Raspberries are one of my favorite fruits, and the best in June and July, when the summer days are long. But the prime June-July for me is the strawberry. The original fruit was the wild variety of fragaria vesca, which is native to both North America and northern Europe (it is thought to be circumpolar that by some botanical miracle, it passed across the pole). The name in English comes from the Anglo-Saxon streow, to scatter or strew, and refers to the runners which stray out from the plant in all directions. Both garden strawberries and wild or Alpine strawberries are at their peak of perfection during these summer months, exemplified by their appearance at many European summer sporting occasions.
Cointreau champagne raspberries or strawberries
Served almost iced on a hot day provide probably one of the coolest and easiest of desserts. A spoonful of sweet vanilla whipped cream, is all that is needed to complete this dessert.
Ingredients: 450 g raspberries, 1 teaspoon of finely grated orange zest, 3-4 tbsps of champagne, 1 tbsp of icing sugar, plus more for sprinkling, 2 tbsps of Cointreau
for the vanilla whipped cream: 1 vanilla pod, 150 ml double whipping cream, 1 heaped tbsp of icing sugar
Directions: Blend 100 gr of the raspberries with the orange zest 3 tbsps of the champagne and the tbsp of icing sugar, then strain through a fine sieve. The extra tbsp of champagne can be added for a stronger flavor, if needed. chill until ready to serve.
Separate remaining raspberries between four dessert glasses or bowls, then sprinkle each portion with icing sugar and the Cointreau. These can also be refrigerated until needed.
To make the vanilla whipped cream, split the vanilla pod, scraping the seeds from each half. Add the seeds to the cream in a chilled bowl, along with the icing sugar. Whisk until soft-peak stage and the cream is ready to serve. The addition of the icing sugar to the cream will help maintain the creamy consistency for up to 1 hour comfortably, providing i is kept in refrigerated.
just before serving, spoon the champagne raspberry sauce over each bowl of raspberries, offering them with the flavored whipped cream.
Last week I found a weird herb in our local super market. On its label was written: portulak, in English purslane. When I asked the shopkeeper what a “heck” is it, she didn’t have the faintest idea about the herb. It must be a forgotten herb- she added shrugging her shoulders. -Okay, in spite of this I decided to buy it since I like to discover new stuffs.
Then at home I started to google about the purslane and I have found the next: Common purslane, also known as (verdolaga, portulak, pigweed, little hogweed, red root, pursley) is an annual succulent in the family Portulacea. It contains more omega-3 fatty acids in particular than any other leafy vegetable plant. What?-I exclaimed. I thought omega-3 fatty acids just exists in fish, but not!
Further more studies have found that purslane has 0.01 mg/g of eicosapentaenoic acid as well. It also contains vitamins (mainly vitamin A, C, B, E, carotenoids)-super!, and dietary minerals such as magnesium, calcium, potassium, and iron. Also present are two types of betalain alkaloid pigments, the reddish betacyanins (visible in the coloration of the stems) and the yellow betaxanthins (noticeable in the flowers and in the slight yellowish cast of the leaves).- I checked my pot plant and yes, the google was right about the colors! Both of these pigment types are potent antioxidants and have been found to have anti-mutagenic properties in laboratory studies. I will see after eating them!
In traditional Chinese medicine. Its leaves are used for insect or snake bites on the skin, boils, sores, pain from bee stings, bacillary dysentery, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, postpartum bleeding, and intestinal bleeding. Use is contraindicated during pregnancy and for those with cold and weak digestion. Purslane is a clinically effective treatment for oral lichen planus. (I don’t want to experience any above mentioned illness or pathological disorders, but in any case it’s good to know!)
Stop to blow its trumpet!- I thought after having learned all those facts about the purslane, I’m totally convinced to eat it.
It has an extensive distribution, assumed to be mostly anthropogenic, throughout the Old World extending from North Africa and Southern Europe through the Middle East and the Indian Subcontinent to Australia. The species status in the New World is uncertain: in general, it is considered an exotic weed, however, there is evidence that the species was in Crawford lake deposits in 1350-1539, suggesting that it reached North America in the pre-Columbian era. –Come on it was a weed!!! Given to pigs!-
Scientists suggested that the plant was already eaten by native Americans, who spread its seeds. How it reached the New World is currently unknown. It is naturalized elsewhere, and in some regions is considered an introduced weed.-You see I ‘ve told you!
Purslane in the history and in the kitchen
Purslane is widely used in East Mediterranean countries, archaeobotanical finds are common at many prehistoric sites. In historic contexts, seeds have been retrieved from the Samian Heraion period dating back to the 7th century BC. In the 4th century BC, Theophrastus names purslane, andrákhne as one of the several summer pot herbs that must be sown in April. As Portulaca-portulak it figures in the long list of comestibles enjoyed by the Milanese given by Bonvesin de la Riva in his “Marvels of Milan” (in 1288). In antiquity, its healing properties were thought so reliable that Pliny the Elder, advised wearing the plant as an amulet to expel all evil. A common plant in parts of India, purslane is known as sanhti, punarva, paruppu keerai, “gangabayala kura”, or kulfa. (OMG I have eaten kulfa at my best friend’s house! It was divine, If I have thought…)
Although purslane is considered a weed in the United States, it may be eaten as a leaf vegetable. It has a slightly sour and salty taste and is eaten throughout much of Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Mexico. The stems, leaves and flower buds are all edible. Purslane may be used fresh as a salad, stir-fried, or cooked as spinach is, and because of its mucilaginous quality it also is suitable for soups and stews. The sour taste is due to oxalic and malic acid, the latter of which is produced through the pathway that is seen in many xerophytes (plants living in dry conditions), and is at its highest when the plant is harvested in the early morning.
Australian Aborigines use the seeds of purslane to make seedcakes.
Greeks, who call it andrakla or glystrida, use the leaves and the stems with feta cheese, tomato, onion, garlic, oregano, and olive oil. They add it in salads, boil it, or add it to casseroled chicken.
In Turkey, besides being used in salads and in baked pastries, it is cooked as a vegetable similar to spinach. Similarly, in Egypt, it is cooked as a vegetable stew. Called Bakleh in Syria and Lebanon, is eaten raw in a famous salad called fattoush, and cooked as a garniture in fatayeh (triangular salted pastries).
In Albania, known as burdullak, it also is used as a vegetable similar to spinach, mostly simmered and served in olive oil dressing, or mixed with other ingredients as a filling for dough layers of byrek.
In the south of Portugal, baldroegas are used as a soup ingredient. In Pakistan, it is known as qulfa and is cooked as in stews along with lentils, similarly to spinach, or in a mixed green stew.
Although often identified as a “weed”, purslane is a vegetable rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, a cultivar, sativa, is shown here being grown in a ceramic pot.
My purslane salad looked like this! And yesterday I also prepared an omlette with purslane, fried in butter!
Purslane also finds mention in a translation of the Bible as a repulsive food. Job’s question in Job 6:6: “Can that which is tasteless be eaten without salt or is there any taste in the slime of the purslane?” whereas the King James Version translates this verse as “Can that which is unsavory be eaten without salt? Or is there any taste in the white of an egg?”
I bought a chequered lily last week (Fritillaria meleagris) as I decided to choose it for being our major Easter decoration. I discovered it couple of years ago in Germany and since it has been my favorite flower of the Lent. It is a Eurasian species of flowering plant in the lily family. Its common names include snake’s head fritillary, snake’s head (the original English name), chess flower, frog-cup, guinea-hen flower, guinea flower, leper lily (because its shape resembled the bell once carried by lepers), Lazarus bell, chequered lily, chequered daffodil, drooping tulip or, in northern Europe, simply fritillary.
The name Fritillaria comes from the Latin fritillus meaning dice-box, possibly referring to the chequered pattern on the flowers although this derivation has been disputed. The name meleagris means “spotted like a guineafowl. The common name “snake’s head” probably refers to the somewhat snakelike appearance of the nodding flower heads on their long stems. Vita Sackville West called it “a sinister little flower, in the mournful color of decay.
The flower has a chequered pattern in shades of purple, or is sometimes pure white. It flowers from March to May and grows between 15–40 cm in height. The plant has a button-shaped bulb, about 2 cm in diameter, containing poisonous alkaloids. It grows in grasslands in damp soils and river meadows at altitudes up to 800 m.
Fritillaria meleagris is native to Europe and Western Asia but in many places it is an endangered species that is rarely found in the wild but is commonly grown in gardens. In Croatia, the flower is known as kockavica and is associated by some with the country’s national symbol. It is the official flower of the Swedish province of Uppland, where it grows in large quantities every spring at the meadows in Kungsängen (Kings meadow), just outside Upsala, which gives the flower its Swedish name, kungsängslilja (Lily of Kings meadow). It is also found for example in Sandemar Nature Reserve, a nature reserve west of Dalarö in Stockholm Archipelago. It is also a symbol of the Italian Botanical Garden Alpino di Pietra Corva.
Last week I visited Wörishofen, a small village in Bavaria. The reason was because each time when I went to my hairdresser, she couldn’t stop talking/praising this place. She likes thermal bathes and this small town became famous for the water-cure-hydrotherapy, which was developed by Sebastian Kneipp (1821–1897), a Catholic priest, who lived in the village for 42 years. That made me curious.
Since Bad Wörishofen is just 80 km/50 miles from München where I live (frontier of Baden Württemberg) so that in spite of the bad weather we decided to go. And we didn’t regret it. Arriving at the town we saw many of the resort hotels and boarding-houses offer their guests treatment using Kneipp’s methods.
By the way the new spa complex out of town is called Therme Bad Wörishofen. The Time Magazine called the city “The secret capital of health.”
I also learned that from the local museum that after World War II, with south-western Germany belonging to the American occupation zone, Bad Wörishofen was the site of a displaced persons camp.
What I’ve learned of Sebastien Kneipp and his methods
Kneipp was a Bavarian priest and one of the forefathers of the Hydrotherapy water cure movement. He is most commonly associated with the “Kneipp Cure” form of hydrotherapy, the application of water through various methods, temperatures and pressures which he demonstrated to have therapeutic or healing effects, thus building several hospitals in Bad Wörishofen. Although most commonly associated with one area of Nature Cure, Kneipp was the proponent of an entire system of healing which rested on 5 main tenets:
Hydrotherapy – Kneipp was able to heal many people with water
Phytotherapy – The use of botanical medicines was another of Kneipp’s specialities
Exercise– Promoting health of the body through movement
Nutrition – A wholesome diet of whole grains, fruits & vegetables with limited meat.
Balance – Kneipp believed that a healthy mind begot a healthy person.
Kneipp was born in 1821 in Bavaria. He studied theology in the University of München but he had to stop his studying in 1847 because of his serious illness (TBC). While he was ill, he began reading many books and found his illness described in a book about water cures. In 1850, Kneipp met a student in the Georgianum seminary in Munich that was also ill and shared water cures with him. Both Kneipp and his friend at the Georgianum recovered from their illnesses and with his renewed health Kneipp was able to complete his studies. He was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1852.
In the 19th century, there was a popular revival in the application of hydrotherapy, instigated around 1829 by Vincent Priessnitz, a peasant farmer in Gräfenberg, then part of the Austrian Empire. This revival was continued by Kneipp, “an able and enthusiastic follower” of Priessnitz, “whose work he took up where Priessnitz left it”, after he came across a treatise on the cold water cure. At Worishofen, while serving as the confessor to the monastery, he began offering treatments of hydrotherapy, botanical treatments, exercise and diet to the people who lived in the village. Some of his suggested treatments included “ice cold baths and walking barefoot in the snow” and other “harsh” methodologies. In 1893, M. E. Bottey described Kneipp’s water cures as “dangerous in most cases”.”. Worishofen became known as a place with a reputation for spiritual healing. In addition to “peasants”, Kneipp’s clients also included Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his father, Archduke Karl Ludwig as well as Pope Leo XIII. Others took Kneipp’s processes back to their home countries to found alternative therapy spas and colleges.
Kneipp began developing his healing methods in 1849 after contracting tuberculosis and experimenting with the water treatments developed by Sigmund Hahn. After being ordained in 1852, he continued to experiment with water treatments in his parish. Kneipp began working with the cures developed by Vincenz Priessnitz but developed a more complicated and gentle method. His gentle cures contrast the earlier water cures that he referred to as horse cures for their strenuous nature. Kneipp’s treatment of patients also contrasted that of hospital medicine because it was personalized and took into account the patient’s individual strengths and weaknesses.
Kneipp’s approach comes from his theory that all diseases originate in the circulatory system. This theory is similar to humoral theory. Like those that believed in humoral theory, Kneipp asserted that breathing miasmatic or excessively hot air would lead to disease. While it may deal with one humor instead of four, his theory still asserts that an imbalance in the blood whether it be circulation or foreign matter is the root of disease. Under Kneipp’s depiction of disease, water cures work by affecting the blood. They dissolve foreign matter, cleanse the blood of this matter, aid in circulation, and strengthen the body as a whole.
In addition to specific cures, Kneipp had prescriptions with regard to food, drink and clothing. He believed that food should be dry and simple and should not be spicy. He also believed that people should drink primarily water but also allowed consumption of alcohol in moderation.As for clothing, Kneipp preferred self-spun clothing made of linen or hemp over wool.
Kneipp’s approach to medicine was not independent of his Catholic faith. His focus on water and herbs stems from the idea that remedies are naturally provided by God. HIs emphasis on plain food, drink, and clothing comes from the theory that humans should live in accord with nature. He used scripture as well as references to Roman practice to support the reasoning behind his cure and admitted that his treatments did not fall in line with current scientific understanding. The fact that his treatments were not based in scientific theory did not bother Kneipp because they were seen as able to succeed where scientific medicine could not. Sebastian Kneipp had a particular dedication to helping the poor and those that physicians can’t help. His suffering early in life caused Kneipp to develop a deep sympathy for those less fortunate than him. He turned down many patients that could feasibly recover on their own but claims to have never refused to treat a patient that is poor or untreatable by other methods.
Kneipp’s book ,My Water Cure was published in 1886 with many subsequent editions, and translated into many languages. He also wrote “Thus Shalt Thou Live”, “My Will”, and The Care of Children In Sickness and In Health.