Garden Diary - April 2012

Holland in Tulip Time: Floriade - Produce and Food


The Netherlands does quite well with food. Agriculture is an important part of the economy. Not surprisingly, the Floriade has exhibits that focus on produce.

Carol and I had walked our way to the Education and Innovation area, stopping along the way at exhibits that caught our attention.
It was now 11:00 a.m. and time for hobbit-style elevenses. Restaurant The Greenhouse was just the place. I liked the multi-tiered carts
of potted herbs and topped with flowers that separate the dining area from the food service portion. And they had scrumptious fruit tarts.

Apricot, cherry, and apple. I chose apricot, Carol had cherry, both delicious. And coffee,
of course. The Netherlands runs on coffee. Excellent coffee, served at every opportunity.

Next to the restaurant is Huis van de Smaak, the House of Taste. Our tour guide who offered some must-see suggestions as our bus was driving to the Floriade gave this one high marks. She was quite right. Outside the building is an array of fruit trees, vegetable crops, strawberries and blueberries, arranged around a central plaza with picnic spots.

Elsewhere on our peregrinations we'd seen Aardbeinland,
Strawberry Land. It looked too kitschy, and we didn't stop.

The strawberry garden at the House of Taste was more to our liking.

Inside the House of Taste it was even better, multiple samples of fresh produce to try,
including these sweet and juicy fresh strawberries. Marvellous strawberry decorated tie.

.

Since it is April, an additional experience in the outdoor garden is the asparagus presentation.
Limberg, where Venlo is located, is a major asparagus production region, along with the
adjacent Noord Brabant. Most, 97 percent of the asparagus, is white, and only 3% is green.

We saw fields like this as we drove to Venlo so I was particularly glad to get a closeup view.
The asparagus plants are mounded quite high with sandy soil, then covered with heavy plastic
that is white on the soil side, black above. The plastic at each end of the row is gathered tight.

The man giving a demonstration unfortunately did not speak English. Going by his lengthy explanations to some Dutch school children he is quite knowledgeable. There's an AspergeGilde emblem on his jacket, for the Peel and Meuse asparagus guild. How pleased he looks, with this fine, plump, long - and white - spear.

Nearby there is an Asparagus Tunnel, another portion of the asparagus display which answered many of the questions I would have asked him. About 100 feet long, it has factual displays enlivened with art, games, and even a brief film (watch asparagus sprout and grow.

Then there was the sprout man, nattily attired in chef's whites
embellished with greenery. Those extra long forceps / tweezers

were used to pluck sprout samples for tasting.

There were a few different kinds of basil. A snappy red radish sprout. Parsley, and more.

.

It intrigued me that the descriptions for the House of Taste refer to fruits and vegetables,
and mushrooms. I don't know that a similar event in the United States would give equal
billing to mushrooms. Fruits and vegetables, yes, but mushrooms usually trail well behind.

Just a few steps inside the building was a good sized booth offering tasting samples of
prepared mushrooms. Two men were busily preparing these delicious tidbits. One was

a rich mushroom broth poured over finely diced mushrooms and red and green peppers
in a glass wine glass mind you, and handed out to be consumed while warm. Very nice.

It's possible that this is one of the preliminary rounds of the Silver Mushroom competition.

When there was a lull in the eager-to-sample-mushroom crowd I stepped forward, introduced myself,
and mentioned that in the United States I am a member of the New Jersey Mycological Association.
That I love to eat mushrooms, and especially the wild ones for which I go foraging. Aha! And I was

taken to an adjacent booth where several kinds of mushrooms were sprouting - from
plastic wrapped bales (I'm familiar with those) and also little plastic tubs, which I
gather are for homeowners / apartment dwellers. A quick conversation in Dutch, first
man hurried back to his cooking and I was left to talk to the nice man at this second booth.

We had a good discussion about mushroom safety, knowing what you are collecting, and
why for most people either purchasing mushrooms in a store or growing your own from
inoculated "logs" is a better choice. Look at the lovely mushrooms growing here -

. . . . .

two color forms of Pleurotus ostreatus, oyster mushroom. The darker one
is called grijze oesterswam in Dutch, and the yellow one, gele oesterzwam.

This well presented mushroom growers booth is done by Prime Champ. Lovely mushrooms. They have a restaurant,
De Paddestoelerij which features mushroom dishes, even includes a dedicated mushroom shop. Oh, to dine there.

A bountiful shitake log, just brimming with mushrooms. But
the next wave of visitors has arrived. Time for me to move on.


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