Eating ‘local’ (hence seasonal) is undeniably tastier, healthier and better for the environment. And it doesn’t mean you will have to diet on German Wurst, cabbage soup and spuds for six months a year.
Sourcing your food from the Berlin-Brandenburg area can actually lead you on an exotic gastronomic adventure filled with tender horse burgers, crunchy gherkins, delicious cured ostrich salami, and creamy buffalo cheeses. We took a trip to two nearby farms to investigate.
The historic town of Jüterbog, about 70km south of Berlin, is home to a medieval wall, three stone gateways, two protestant churches and 300 buffalo. Bobalis Agar, owned by Elke Henrion and her husband Henri, is a Jüterbog bio-buffalo farm that distributes buffalo products – from fresh and smoked mozzarella to salami to milk – in restaurants and organic shops throughout Berlin.
When the Wall fell, the couple from East Berlin bought 30 buffalo and two bulls from Bulgaria and decided to start anew by opening the organic farm. The real treat at the table is the raw milk, sweeter than its cow counterpart and with a higher calcium and iron content. It is the base for all of the dairy products they sell, from yogurt to ricotta.
The bestseller is the raw milk mozzarella (€4.45 for 200g), which is so deliciously smooth and flavourful, you’ll find it hard to go back to the cheaper cow variety (49-79 cents for 125g).
Although the herd has grown from 30 to 300, the buffalo still have the freedom to wander around and play – they are in the fields from May to November, and their diet consists of hay, grain, grass – and no antibiotics. A veterinarian by profession, Henrion treats the animals with homeopathy whenever possible.
She explains that buffalo give 2000 litres of milk per year, a huge contrast to the 10,000 a cow produces. Her buffalo are milked two times a day and for the price of €3.50 (€3 at the farm), you can buy a litre of the sweet liquid.
When the animals reach two years of age, they are brought to the nearby farm of a friend who has a slaughtering facility. There, every three weeks, the animals are slaughtered as humanely as possible. They take two at a time so that the animals have company. They have the animals spend a night there to get them to relax. The next day they are instantly killed from a shot in the back of the head.
The meat is prepared in the two weeks following the slaughter in order for it to reach its optimum flavour. The resulting salami (spiced with herbs or red wine, pepper or coriander), cured, air-dried hams and Leberwurst (liver paté) are sold alongside the dairy products at your local Bio Company and at Hilton restaurants. Just look out for the round green or red sticker with a buffalo in the middle!
About 20km east of Jüterbog in the town of Baruth lies the Jambo Straußenfarm, home to 36 African ostriches (35 from South African, one from Zimbabwe), a few pigs, five highlanders, and one very wired farm dog.
Ronny and Manfred Peutrich are two Berliners who took a trip to Africa in 2001 and liked what they saw so much, they decided to buy some blue-necked ostriches and start a farm.
Although they were brought from a warmer climate, ostriches originally come from the Asian steppes and have the fat and feathers to live through the cold. At the Straußenfarm, they have the option to sleep inside, but most of them prefer it under the Brandenburg stars.
As we walk around the foggy fields and watch the fuzzy animals run circles around each other, Manfred explains that ostriches are the perfect farm animals because they make little noise and like to “do a funny little dance – it’s their trademark”.
The longnecked creatures are also thoroughly exploitable: one ostrich egg, the shell of which is strong enough to withstand the weight of a human without cracking, can make an omelette that serves six. The dark red meat is low in fat and cholesterol, the feathers are anti-static and fantastic for dusting, the fat can be rubbed on the skin as an anti-inflammatory and the leather can be dyed and made into beautiful purses.
Ostrich steaks, ground meat for ostrich burgers, paté, bock- and bratwursts and thinly shaved prosciutto-style ostrich are all on offer at Jambo Straußenfarm and at their snack bar, Straußen Imbiss, for €4-13. No matter what, don’t leave without an ostrich salami (€5): the dark red, moist little sausage with the grand smoky taste is a must-have winter Wurst.