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Cultivating for taste, nutrition, and per order
Too expensive for the wholesale market"You do not want to know how much I do to my soil", says Wim Bijma. He farms in Osdorp, under the smog of the Dutch city of Amsterdam. The soil is where it all starts. "Eating 250g of vegetables per day - not with my vegetables. They are chock full of nutrients." Wim is not as concerned with quantities as he is with flavour. So, no hybrids, plant hormones, specifications, or marks of quality - just tasty varieties. Many of these kinds of vegetables are all-but-forgotten.
Wim Bijma with two types of rhubarb
"I used to grow for a greengrocer. He asked if I could supply him with a number of forgotten vegetables. That is how it all started", says Wim. Fruit and vegetable specialists, such as the vegetable specialist, Bulters, still buy from him. He has since started focusing on flavour. Now, mostly chefs (some with 2 Michelin stars) and the catering industry supplier, Kroon Horecavers, buy from him. Wim does not concern himself with sales and prices. He grows per order and determines the prices himself. For example, the regional product, Champagne rhubarb, cost EUR2 per handful (about 500g). "Wholesalers at the food centre would love to sell this, but it is too expensive for them. Rhubarb is selling for EUR0.30 per 500g in the shops at the moment."
Wim farms and lives by the seasons. He is never home in the summer. In the winter he has the time to go on long holidays. Wim's garden resembles a sizeable public allotment. "Farming is about choosing the right varieties, type of soil, and the method of cultivation. The way I grow is not classified as organic. That is a buzzword. Organic vegetables also do not taste better, as is sometimes claimed. I do only use organic fertilisers. Soil full of bacteria, fungi, and minerals is the basis of all the plant's nutrients and taste", explains Wim. Timing is also essential - no bringing the cultivation forward or delaying it. "Grow when the time is right otherwise you pay the price with the taste. So, strawberries in June and purslane in June, July, and August. Harvesting rhubarb also end after the longest day of the year."
Water mint grows in a pond. Water plants provide oxygen for the fishes.
What grows in a garden like Wim's? Too many seasonal varieties to mention. Currently, there are various kinds of herbs. These include East Indian Cherry Leaf, Burnet, Thulbaghia, Stonecrop, and water mint, which grows in a pond. There are chives flowers, broad beans, and thyme. There are also well-known and unique vegetables. These include iceberg lettuce, oak leaf lettuce, Jerusalem artichoke, and tree spinach. When asked what is currently popular, Wim answers, "The Champagne rhubarb already mentioned and chard."
Read more about Champagne rhubarb in the upcoming Primeur.
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Publication date: 7/4/2018
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