Brandenburg: Prussia’s Vegetable Garden

Coat of Arms of Brandenburg

Brandenburg – Germany’ fifths largest federal state – was the heart of the former Prussian Empire, a place of historical significance and home to one of Germany’ most delectable specialties – the “Spreewälder Gurke” (pickled gherkin from Spreewald).

Located in the eastern part of the country, Brandenburg literally surrounds the capital Berlin and borders Saxony in the West and Poland in the East. The state, home to 2.5 million inhabitants, has enormous historical significance. Prussian Emperor Frederick the Great lived here in his famous castle Sanssouci (meaning “carefree”) which is situated in Potsdam, the state capital.

Frederick’ successor, Frederick Wilhelm the Second, ordered the construction of the famous Brandenburg Gate in 1786, literally an entry way to Berlin and a symbol of peace and prosperity.

Almost 200 years later, US president Ronald Reagan delivered one of his most famous speeches at the foot of the Brandenburg gate: “General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” From that day on, the Brandenburg gate became a symbol of freedom and unity.

Albert Einstein was probably Brandenburg’ most famous inhabitant and he lived here before emigrating to the United States in 1932. Other well known people of the federal state are Otto Lilienthal, the first person to make repeated successful short flights, Gerhart Hauptmann, Nobel Prize winner for literature, Bertolt Brecht, the most influential German playwright and lyricist and Wolfgang Joop, a well known fashion designer.

Brandenburg’s Delicacies (“delicatessen”)

Brandenburg is also called “Berlin’s vegetable garden” and for good reason. Agriculture and food production play important roles in Brandenburg’ economy, with a great variety of natural and organic products coming from this area. Beelitz, a small village southwest of Potsdam, is famous for its delicious asparagus. Teltow, a suburb of Berlin, has Teltower Rübchen (turnips).

Wildlife and wild plants abound. In summer, people go on mushroom picking expeditions in the lush forests around Berlin, searching for chanterelle or porcini.

The state’s many lakes and rivers are rich in fish, among them luce, zander, eel and carp which are popular dishes as well.

The drink of choice is supplied by one of Brandenburg’ numerous small breweries, for example, Klosterbrauerei Neuzelle GmbH, founded in 1589, which is known for its refreshing “Anti-Aging-Bier” that supposedly increases health and longevity.

Around Werder upon Havel, to be found west of Potsdam, all kinds of fruits and fruit wines are produced. Since 1879, Werder celebrates the Tree Blossom Festival during spring time. Right after the annually Oktoberfest in Munich, the tree blossom festival is the second biggest folk festival in Germany. Every year around 500.000 visitors from all over the world join the fun atmosphere. Different from the Oktoberfest, the most traditional beverage at the tree blossom festival is the fruit wine, such as apple wine, strawberry wine, cherry wine, raspberry wine, plum wine, currant wine and many more.

Products from Spreewald

About 60 miles southeast of Berlin, the Spreewald (“;Spree Forest”) is one of Brandenburg’ major tourist attractions and one of Europe’ most beautiful river landscapes, protected as a “;biosphere preserve” by UNESCO since 1991.

A network of more than 300 waterways, in place since the ice age, stretches like a spider web across 480 square kilometers of forests, fields and meadows. Inhabitants of the Inner Spreewald use their row boats to get to work, go shopping or visit friends.

The Spreewald is home to the famous pickled cucumbers and horseradish whose geographical origin and production methods are protected by the European “Protected Designation of Origin” (PDO) and “;Protected Geographical Origin” (PGI) seals.

One of the oldest local companies producing gherkins and sauerkraut is Nowka, founded in 1815 by Ernst Nowka and still owned by a family member bearing that name. During the last decades the product range has been constantly improved in order to achieve consumer needs. Today’ favorites are gherkins, apple & red cabbage, wine sauerkraut and sauerkraut.

Spreewaldhof is another well known producer of pickles (e.g. pumpkin, gherkins, sauerkraut) and canned fruit (e.g. cherries, gooseberries, apple sauce). The company offers more than fifty different canned goods in twenty different tastes that are sold all around the world. One of Spreewaldhof’ newest innovations is a gherkin served in a tin.

Spreewald-Feldmann also produces pickles. The company manufactures gherkins, horseradish and other pickled vegetables in Lübben, a small town that also belongs to the Spreewald.