The King’s Candles

… or Verbascum, and sometimes mullein, as this genus (Verbascum, of which there are some 350 species…) is known in English.

I do think, though, that the German Königskerze does for more justice to this plant which becomes truly regal when it flowers in July:

14_07_2013 Königskerzen

Favouring dry, sandy soils in the sun (and therefore often to be found flourishing on wasteland), the Königskerze is not only regal, it has a tradition of healing dating back to Hippocrates. The plant has distinct emollient, demulcent and astringent properties and, while Hippocrates reccommended it for the external treatment of wounds, the Königskerze went on to develop a tradition of treating coughs, colds and respiratory complaints.

The flowers have robust, fleshy petals making them difficult to dry and so one of the best and easiest ways of extracting their healing properties is to use them to make an infused honey in readiness for the onset of autumn and winter:


1) You need to pick the flowers on a dry day, either in the morning or in the evening, not in the heat of the day, and only pick the blossoms fully open. You need to use the blossoms immediately (they will wilt and start to turn brown within hours otherwise) so make sure you have a sterilised jar (I fill the jar with boiling water direct from the kettle and leave it to stand for at least 5 minutes before using) and the honey with you.


2) Place your blossoms directly into your sterilised jar, enough to fill the jar, pour in the honey, seal and rotate the jar a good couple of times to make sure all of the blossoms are covered in a coating of honey.


3) Leave to infuse at room temperature for about 2 weeks. At the end of the infusing, strain the honey into a clean, sterilised jar for storage and/or immediate use either directly as a teaspoonful of honey medicine for ailing children, or to sweeten herbal teas.


Forest Fire at Fifty

Black Forest Gateau x 5, candles x 50 = 1 BIG flame!

(Note fire engine bottom right 🙂 )

Such were our festivities in Hermann the German‘s honour yesterday, most appropriately on the eve of the shortest day here in the northern hemisphere:


Gingerbread Rescue & Recovery

Not quite as accomplished as last year’s efforts, perhaps, but there is a whole lot more dramatic effect involved when the gingerbread tree house collapses …

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and the building material is transformed into a Forest Hideaway (“Waldversteck“):

And the village on the hill survived intact…

Same rules every year: it stays standing – no touching and no nibbling – until Christmas Day when it is then free to be plundered…

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Cherry season is upon us!


This gallery contains 6 photos.

Summer in Europe does not get better than this!                 So here are a few reasons to get picking: Country Tart  Cherry Liqueur  Cherries in Red Wine Black Forest Gateau Cheesecake with Preserved Cherries Crème Fraiche … Continue reading

May Wine

Woodruff (Galium Odoratum, or Waldmeister in German)

has a long tradition here in Germany as the main ingredient for Maibowle, or May Wine, still a popular feature of May Day celebrations.

Its strong sweet scent comes from the fragrant organic chemical compound coumarin, the fragrance growing stronger as the plant wilts after picking. The coumarin content apparently increases once the plant starts to flower and, as too much coumarin can cause (instead of cure) headaches, the recommendation is that you pick your woodruff just before it goes into flower …

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You will find the recipe for May Wine as featured in a delightful little cookery book I translated a couple of years ago below:

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Considered the greatest painter of the Northern Renaissance, Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) came from Nuremburg where the Albrecht-Dürer-Haus remains as a museum and memorial to the man and his times.

This little cookbook takes a look behind the scenes in the Dürer household with seasonal recipes of the kind that would have been known to Albrecht Dürer’s wife Agnes, adapted for easy cooking in the modern kitchen, a number of them having since become set features of Franconian culinary tradition: Schäufele (Roast Pork Shoulder), Krumme Krapfen (Crooked Fritters) and Storks’ Nests… Accompanied by interesting details about life at that time: what foodstuffs where available to the Nuremburg housewife in around 1500, what were the different meals served during the course of the year, and what were table manners like?

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May Wine

Serves 8

2 bunches of sweet woodruff

50 g honey or sugar

2 bottles of white wine, chilled

500 ml of light red wine, chilled

Wash the woodruff and pat dry. Tie the stems into a bunch and leave to dry overnight in a well-aired place.

Combine the honey or sugar with ½ a bottle of wine. Suspend the bunch of woodruff upside down in the wine, making sure that the ends of the stems do not come into contact with the wine. Cover and leave to draw for 30 minutes.

Remove the bunch of woodruff and pour the base wine mixture into a jug or large bowl. Add the rest of the red and white wine and serve immediately.

Agnes’ tip: oh how we enjoyed drinking this light, aromatic May wine! Sparkling wine is not something we know yet and so, instead, we simply added a light red wine to the base mixture, even though this did not make the punch sparkle, of course. For special occasions I sprinkle a few fresh wild strawberry or redcurrant leaves, as well as tarragon, sage or mint over the punch. That looks pretty and adds extra aroma.

Taken from:

Dürer’s Little Cookbook
Yesterday’s recipes for today’s food lovers
Compiled by Petra Teetz, Translated by Katherine Taylor, Published by ars vivendi verlag
Original edition © 2009 English edition © 2013

Hedgerow hues and meadow motifs for Easter

One of the most charming Easter traditions here in Franconia: decorating the wells and fountains with brighly coloured Easter Eggs …

Edible eggs in bright colours are also to be found throughout Germany at this time of year but the bought versions are just too garish and – frankly – suspect (how old are the eggs???) for my tastes …

It was Mini-Kraut’s idea that we boil and colour our own and my idea to use natural motifs and colourants…

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The boiled eggs are rinsed in a vinegar/water (50/50) solution once cold enough to handle (makes the shells more porous so that they absorb more colour) and, together with their motifs, are wrapped in old tights and left to steep in the colouring infusions overnight.

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The results:

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Happy Easter from the orchard!

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Europe’s Traditional Orchard Landscapes – with World Heritage status?

09_02_2013 Meadow-Orchard_in-Waiting  18_05_2013 Die Wiese 03_08_2013 Die Wiese   26_10_2013 Die Wiese

Press Release, Nürtingen, Germany, 2.3.2015

“Europe’s Traditional Orchard Landscapes – a World Heritage Site”

This was the theme of an event attended by some 40 guests on Saturday 28.2.2015 in the “Haus der Familie” in Nürtingen, Germany where Peter Scharfenberger, Nürtingen resident, beekeeper and tree surgeon, had initiated a gathering of scientific, traditional orchard, administrative and cultural experts. Among those who took up his invitation were Jenny Piegsa, traditional orchard coordinator with the Ministry of Rural Affairs and Corinna Schweickardt, fruit-growing consultant with the Esslingen District Office. Also present was renowned fruit expert Professor Walter Hartmann, Ms. Wagner-Jung from the cultural landscape tour guides “Die Obstler”, regional activists from the German Nature Conservation Association NABU, representatives of a number of local councils and also Maria Schropp, the resourceful head of the Württemberg region’s “Schwäbisches Streuobstparadies e.V.” (“Swabian Traditional Orchard Paradise Association”).

Following his thought-provoking introduction Peter Scharfenberger handed over to the evening’s presenter, journalist and longstanding head of the Esslingen Protestant Training Institute, Eckhard Rahlenbeck, to moderate the discussion with the panel of experts.

In addition to familiar practical and business management problems relating to traditional orchards, the prospect of an international traditional orchard world heritage project was also addressed.

Professor Christian Küpfer, a native of Germany’s Baden region and Dean of Studies for Landscape Planning and Nature Conservation at the Nürtingen-Geislingen University, gave clear emphasis to the need for communal management, quality products and tourist access in order to improve the earnings situation in Württemberg’s traditional orchard region as well as the need for attention to be paid to future options and developments in traditional orchards.

Dr. Khaled Siddig, economist and specialist for rural developmental theory and policy at the Universities of Hohenheim and Khartoum, spoke of his biographical link to traditional orchard landscapes and their cultures. His home is the cultural landscape of northern Sudan, a landscape of date palms and social communities. “That is our life!” is his passionate affirmation of this landscape. Dr. Siddig gave eloquent emphasis to the bright prospects for an international cooperative traditional orchard culture project.

Both experts, with their very diverse personal and academic backgrounds, shared an empathy and cautious optimism for a larger, culture-related development project for the traditional orchard landscapes of Europe and beyond.

The specialist audience was an attentive one and subsequently engaged in lively discussion with the experts while top class musical accompaniment by guitarist Michael Nessmann from Stuttgart made this kick-off event a highly successful, entertaining cultural occasion during which the evening’s theme met with a positive reception.

A follow-up event aimed at preparing for the inclusion of Europe’s traditional orchard culture in the German UNESCO Commission’s “Tentative List” is planned for the second half of 2015.

Peter Scharfenberger

Kirchstraße 5

72622 Nürtingen


Mobile: +491772521002

English translation by Katherine Taylor (original German version of this press release below)

More on Europe’s traditional orchards as a cultural landscape here: The Traditional Orchard Story

09_02_2013 Winter Work of Art 26_04_2013 Spring P1100736 P1110310


Nürtingen, den 2.3.2015

„Weltkulturerbe Streuobstlandschaften Europas“

Am Samstag, 28.2.2015 fand in Nürtingens Haus der Familie eine mit ca. 40 Gästen gut besuchte Veranstaltung zu diesem Motiv statt. Peter Scharfenberger, Nürtinger Bürger, Imker und Obstbaumpfleger, hatte Experten aus Wissenschaften, Streuobstpraxis, Verwaltungen und Kulturleben zusammen gerufen.

Neben vielen anderen folgten Frau Jenny Piegsa Streuobstkoordinatorin am Ministerium ländlicher Raum und Frau Corinna Schweickardt vom Landratsamt Esslingen/Obstbauberatung, seiner Einladung. Ebenso Herr Professor Dr. Walter Hartmann – weithin anerkannter Obstwissenschaftler, Frau Wagner-Jung von den Kulturlandschaftsführern „Die Obstler“, NABU-Aktivisten aus der Region Stuttgart, verschiedene Nürtinger Gemeinderäte ebenso wie Frau Maria Schropp, die ideenreiche Geschäftsführerin vom württembergischen „Streuobstparadies“.

Nach einem einführenden Impuls-Referat durch Herrn Scharfenberger ging es in das von Herrn Eckhard Rahlenbeck, Journalist und langjähriger Geschäftführer des evangelischen Bildungswerkes im Landkreis Esslingen lebendig moderierte Expertengespräch.

Neben bekannten, praktischen und betriebswirtschaftlichen Streuobstproblemen wurden dabei unter anderem die Aussichten eines länderüberspannenden Streuobst – Weltkulturerbe-Projektes angesprochen.

Professor Dr. Christian Küpfer, badischer Herkunft, Studiendekan des Studienganges Landschaftsplanung und Naturschutz an der HfWU-Nürtingen betonte nachdrücklich die Notwendigkeit durch gemeinschaftliches Wirtschaften, Qualitätsprodukte und touristische Erschliessung die Ertragssituation in Streuobstgebieten zu verbessern und darüber auch die Offenheit für zukunftweisende Wege der Streuobstentwicklung zu beachten.

Herr Dr. Khaled Siddig, Wirtschaftswissenschaftler und Spezialist für Entwicklungstheorie und Entwicklungspolitik im ländlichen Raum an den Universitäten Stuttgart-Hohenheim und Chartoum, äußerte seine biografische Verbundenheit mit den Streuobstlandschaften und ihren Kulturen. Er stammt aus einer Kulturlandschaft des Nord-Sudan mit Dattelpalmen – Sozialgemeinschaften. Er sagt leidenschaftlich: „Das ist unser Leben!“.

Herr Dr. Siddig betonte in seiner feinen Art die guten Aussichten eines international kooperativen Streuobst-Kultur-Projektes .

Als gemeinsamen Tenor beider Experten mit so unterschiedlichen persönlichen und wissenschaftlichen Herkünften könnte man Sympathie und vorsichtige Zuversicht für ein größeres, kulturbezogenes Entwicklungsprojekt für die traditionellen Streuobstlandschaften Europas und darüber hinaus benennen.

Die sehr interessierten Gäste hörten aufmerksam zu und diskutierten anschließend engagiert mit den Experten.

Nicht zuletzt die hochklassige musikalische Begleitung des Abends durch Michael Nessmann, Stuttgart an der Gitarre  machte diese Initial-Veranstaltung zu einem wirklich gelungenen, kurzweiligen Kulturtreff mit freundlichem Ausblick auf das Motiv des Abends.

Eine Folgeveranstaltung mit Zielführung zur Vorbereitung einer Aufnahme der StreuobstKulturen Europas zunächst in die „Tentativ-Liste der UNESCO-Kommission Deutschland“  ist für die zweite Jahreshälfte 2015 vorgesehen.

Peter Scharfenberger

Kirchstraße 5

72622 Nürtingens

Mobil: 01772521002

The Twelfth Day of Christmas

Traditionally marking the end of the yuletide festivities, the Twelfth Day of Christmas is usually seen as the date by which to have cleared up all the Christmas decorations…


 … an even older European tradition, however, keeps the Christmas greenery in place through to “Fasnacht” (carnival) or Imbolc at the beginning of February – winter has in fact only just begun after all and the evergreen symbolism remains relevant for the whole of January at least…

So I have converted my advent wreath into a January wreath:

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  • the green is still present but has been dressed up with silvery white: think blank, as yet unwritten, pages
  • the dried apple, quince and orange slices also remain: the citrus groves of southern Europe are in fact part of the same agricultural tradition as the meadow orchards here in southern Germany, and January and February are the only months of the year in which I preserve anything that is not grown on my own doorstep. The citrus fruit from southern Europe is plentiful on this side of the Alps at this time of the year and so, as I slowly get used to the idea of “2015”, I will be sharing some of my citrus favourites with you in the posts to come…
  • and the candles are still burning – the days are still short here in the northern hemisphere…

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