I love food. In my opinion all the best people do. I look forward to trying new dishes and perfecting my favourites at home. Due to particularly scarring food experiences on the school German exchange and that stereotypes are generally born out of truths, I had some very low expectations of German food when I arrived. There are a lot of sausages and sauerkraut, that was expected but the commitment to seasonal, fresh and still reasonably priced foods was a delicious surprise.
Availability of fruit and vegetables was something that I struggled with when I arrived. Why can’t I find Brussel Sprouts in May? Strawberries in February? British supermarkets had spoiled me; given me year round produce with more air miles than I’m ever likely to have in my lifetime. You won’t find the same range at a German supermarket. Seasonality is king here. Since German supermarkets can be a stressful experience, I tend to do the majority of my weekly shopping at the local market *whispers* where the food is local, fresh and even more cost effective.
In addition to the wonderful Spargelzeit (asparagus time), Bärlauchzeit (Wild garlic time), Federweißerzeit (feather/new wine time), and of course all the other Zeiten (times) in-between, the humble Kürbis (pumpkin) has grown in popularity in the past few years. I’m going to call it; Kürbiszeit is here to stay as part of the German seasonal food calendar.
The pumpkin is not native to mainland Europe, although you wouldn’t know it by the fields of orange, rotund beauties you speed by on the train. A North American import, which was once food for the poorest in society, is now a household staple and Kürbissuppe (pumpkin soup) appears on most menus in the autumn and winter. The largest pumpkin festival in the world is even held in Ludwigsburg, Germany just outside Stuttgart and it does not disappoint.
From the enormous world record breaking competitive giant pumpkins to the dainty carved ornamental can-be-taken-home-and-displayed pumpkins they are all here. The Kürbisaustellung (Pumpkin exhibition/festival) which is held in the grounds of Ludwigsburg Schloß (Ludwigsburg palace) has been drawing crowds since 2000 and gets a little bigger and better every year. Themes have ranged from flight to circus to music in recent years and the interpretations are always sure to entertain the whole family. The food selection gets bigger every year from goulash to chips/fries, maultaschen (Schwabian raviolli) to prosecco, always with a pumpkin twist. There is even a pumpkin regatta in which people use huge hollowed out pumpkins to race in.
Some have equated the rise of the pumpkin in Germany with the rise in popularity of Halloween. There have certainly been more trick or treaters at my door over the years yelling ‘Süßes oder Saures’ (sweet or sour) and grabbing Haribo by the handful but very few carved pumpkins in windows or on doorsteps. Decorative pumpkins though, start gracing tables, doorsteps and gardens as soon as the autumnal chill arrives in the air, and before the twinkle lights arrive for the festive season.
My pumpkin decor is a little more subtle than that at the festival but I have never come home empty handed. I’m a sucker for the tiny white Baby boo, the Spaghetti-Kürbis (spaghetti pumpkin) which I finally found last year after years of being told of its tastiness by American friends and of course the classic Hokkaido. Pumpkin soup anyone?
– Alie C