"I cleave the heavens, and soar to the infinite. What others see from afar, I leave far behind me." Giordano Bruno (1548 – February 17, 1600)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Best Kept Secrets of Austria - Summer Harvest Stalls

"One must ask children and birds 
how cherries and strawberries taste."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 
The Beatles - Strawberry Fields Forever
Around about the beginning of May each year, on my way to and from work, or just into the city, I start to watch for my favourite summer season fruit, vegetables and berry stall. This is generally a large table located on the lower level of the Tram Junction at the U-Bahn station at Schottentor. I have been doing this since my first summer in Vienna, which was way back in 2006.

The first offerings of the season are generally strawberries, and strangely small bunches of Lily of the Valley. Maybe this has to do with the fact that here they are called Maiglöckchen (May Bells) and/or they are a nice Mother’s Day present. This year the Lily of the Valley was missing. They had sprouted and bloomed way back in March. The strawberries on the other hand have arrived just on schedule.

I had ignored the strawberries in the rush to get to work during the first two weeks of stall's return. Today was a different story, as the photo indicates. The strawberries looked so good, smelt so sweet and full with scent of natural sugar. They smelt like fairy floss, (cotton candy or candy floss elsewhere in the world and as Zuckerwatte in Austria). The temptation was too much, I went all out and bought a kilo. Not one came home with me.

Now before anyone jumps to the conclusion that I am a gluttonous little soul, I shared some of the strawberries with colleagues at the office. I had to smile when they asked whether they came from my garden, as I don’t have a garden, or a Strawberry Field. My general response, with another smile, even sweeter than the strawberries, was “I picked them fresh at Schottentor.”

The stall at Schottentor is run by the family Digles, from the Weinviertel of Austria, located north of Vienna. They also have other stalls at various points throughout the city. Besides the various harvest of the season, they also sell "home made" goodies, like Schnapps, jams and liquors. I don't think in all the years I have bought from the stall that quality of the purchases has been less than great. Always harvest and freshly delivered on a daily basis.

Other farms or farm cooperatives also sell throughout Vienna, and Austria, during summer. Vienna also has year round markets, that have stalls with some Austrian produce to found amongst the imported. The rest of the year, I don’t eat strawberries as they are imported from countries that use chemicals in the cultivation. These countries don’t follow the same standards that discerning Austrian’s have come to expect from their farmers.

If you are travelling to Vienna during the summer season, I highly recommend that you try the fruit from the summer stalls which are around to later September. Much better than dropping into a supermarket or buying from the larger markets. You are helping a local farmers and you know the quality is worth the few extra cents. Today, I actually didn't find the price I paid expensive when I compared it to what I paid for the ones in the supermarket last week for similar Austrian grown strawberries.  
"I love berries. Strawberries, blueberries, 
raspberries, black berries, 
anything with an 'errie' in it!"
Jordin Sparks 

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