LOVE THE SPUD – the beautiful potato

Tulip season may be over, but the potato fields are blooming beautiful.

When potatoes were first introduced to Europe from their native Peru, nobody thought of eating them. They were exotic, beautiful garden plants.

Asse Aukes shows us around his farm, Gerbranda State, and in half an hour teaches us more about potatoes than we ever knew before.

Asse Aukes, a man who knows his spuds.

Asse is an expert. With his wife Veronica and their partners Marjolein and Sander Koster, he began the organic, dynamic business over twenty years ago, specialising in organic seed potatoes sold to other growers and health food shops.

Gerbranda State is a ‘zorgboerderij’ (care farm), the rural equivalent of a sheltered workshop, where those who need extra training and supervision are able to find employment.

They milk 300 goats twice a day, run a shop selling cheese and organic vegetables grown on the property, and raise their potatoes. Lots of potatoes.

Three hundred dynamic goats run out to play in organic fields.

Asse is convinced that the organic varieties he raises have come through the recent Dutch drought better than his neighbours’ conventionally raised spuds. A drought? In the Netherlands? Yes, it’s been weeks since the last decent rain, great for us cyclists, not so good for farmers.

‘Potatoes grown with artificial fertilisers are spoilt,’ says Asse. ‘Our potatoes are used to developing deeper roots, so they can find water when others are having difficulty.’

It’s also important to keep a number of varieties of potato going simultaneously. Of course we knew there were different sorts of potatoes – big ones and little ones. Now we know there are 116 varieties listed by the Netherlands Potato Consultative Foundation. People develop new ones all the time, Asse tells us, though they don’t make much money from it. ‘But it’s a nice hobby.’

Some of Asse’s apprentices can spot the different sorts of potatoes from the look of the plant, others find it impossible to learn. We’ll try to pay more attention as we roll along the Pieperpad.

In the meantime, we’re just glad the potato fields look so good.

Pretty enough to plant in your garden.


Toen aardappels voor het eerste naar Europa uit Peru werden geimporteerd, dacht niemand dat ze te eten waren. Ze waren gewoon mooie tuinplanten.

Asse Aukes geeft ons een rondleiding van zijn boerderij, Gerbranda State, en binnen en half uur leren we heel veel over piepers. Asse is deskundige. Samen met z’n vrouw Veronica en hun vennoten Marjolein en Sander Koster, is hij meer dan twintig jaar geleden met de biologische, dynamische zaak begonnen.

Hun specialiteit is biologische pootaardappelen die aan andere telers en natuurvoedingswinkels worden verkocht.

Gerbranda State is een ‘zorgboerderij’, waar mensen die extra begeleiding nodig hebben werk kunnen vinden. 

Twee keer per dag melken ze 300 geiten, werken in een winkel die kaas en biologische groenten verkoopt, en telen hun aardappels. Veel aardappels.

Asse is ervan overtuigd dat zijn biologische aardappels de nederlandse droogte van de laatste tijd beter hebben overleefd dan de gangbare piepers van zijn buren. Droogte? In Nederland? Ja, het is weken geleden dat het behoorlijk heeft geregent. Goed voor fietsers zoals wij, minder goed voor boeren.

‘Aardappels die met behulp van kunstmest worden geteeld zijn verwend,’ volgens Asse. ‘Onze aardappels ontwikkelen diepere poten, dus kunnen ze water vinden waar andere daarmee in de problemen komen.’

Verder is het belangrijk om verschillende aardappelsoorten tegelijkertijd te telen. Natuurlijk wisten we dat verschillende aardappelsoorten bestonden – je had grote en je had kleintjes. Nu weten we dat 116 soorten staan op de NIVAP lijst.  Er worden regelmatig nieuwe soorten ontwikkeld, ondanks dat men er weinig mee verdient, verteld Asse, ‘Maar toch is het een leuke hobby.’

Sommige van zijn stagieren leren gauw de verschillende aardappelsoorten te onderschijden, andere vinden dat moeilijk.

Wij zullen proberen beter op te letten als we over het Pieperpad rollen.

Indertussen zijn we blij dat aardappelvelden zo mooi zijn.

Kastieltsje B&B

For accommodation near Gerbranda State, we can heartily recommend ‘t Kastieltsje B&B in Sexbierum. Mevrouw Wiersma rescued us from the rain, gave us a charming room with view over her garden in her tastefully restored 1830 house,and fed us a breakfast which took us all day to ride off!

The writer was assisted by Greenpeace, Nederland and Bionext.

2 Comments

Filed under Cycle touring, Holland

2 responses to “LOVE THE SPUD – the beautiful potato

  1. angela highstead

    Good morning Richard,
    Loving your spud columns. And forwarding them to Dutch friends in Qld. from her in West. Aussie. I’m out to plant the last of my potatoes this morning. In the very front garden beds- doing the Italian thing (Practical) now due to a too high water bill. So hope they look as beautiful as this when they flower.
    We have a complete sprinkler ban here in the west now. We have had very little rain since last October.
    Angela-The rain dancer.

  2. Thanks Angela. I once planted climbing solanum (aka potato vine) in the garden, but it got a bit out of hand. I never tried eating the roots.

    Hope your spuds survive the WA dry.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s