Thursday, 29 November 2007

A Tribute to the Spree Forest Cucumber

A speciality of the Spreewald in Germany

As can be seen in the photo, which I took myself, this blog refers to a sort of pickled cucumber, known perhaps as wallys in England (a word I remember from my childhood days). Spreewalder cucumbers are not just pickled cucumbers but something special

The company where I work as an export clerk delivers to various small companies in this area of East Germany which probably in English is known as the Spree Forest , the Spree being the river that flows through Berlin. I have got to know various agents that work in this area for our company and can call them colleagues. I saw the film “Good Bye Lenin” which refers to these cucumbers, and they always bring me a glass or two when they are visiting. Today I received again two glasses. I really like them, they are not so sour as the ones usually sold. I do not think they are exported from Germany and the only way to try them is to go there. The Spree Forest is apparently a wonderful place to spend a holiday and has many small rivers and streams. I sort of based the following on Wikipedia as there is only a description in German of the actual origins of this delicacy:

Theodor Fontane in 1870 found that they were one of the best products of the Spreewald in East German Brandenburg. Apparently the secret of these cucumbers lays in the water sources which help with the growth in the damp humus rich earth of the Spree Forests. The delicate taste is also to be found in the special preparation. They were put in large barrels where they fermented for many weeks, however today the process has been shortened and the product is sold either with mustard, herbs or as sour cucumbers. The process has been shortened by putting the cucumbers in sodium bicarbonate brine and heating up to 70° Centrigrade. However each of the suppliers has their own secret contents for the final product. Perhaps it is the addition of basil, lemon balm, grape, cherry or nut leaves which give the cucumbers their special taste.

After the reunification of Germany in 1990 the Spree forest cucumber was one of the few East German products that could still be bought. The product was also made popular in 2003 with the price winning film Good Bye Lenin from Wolfgang Becker. In this tragic comedy Daniel Brühl had problems shortly after the reunification to find the pickled cucumbers for his mother (Katrin Sass) which he absolutely had to find to convince his ailing mother that the German Democratic Republic still existed. I have seen the film a couple of times and can only recommend it. In the meanwhile the Cucumber is available under its patent name Spreewälder Gurken which is now protected by the EU since March 1999. In 2004 50 companies of the region announced that the Spree Forest would remain free of Gen technics.

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