I also quickly started buying the delicious orchard products: local apple and pear juices, several varieties of schnapps and simply amazing bacon from Duroc pigs grown in the village next to ours. Streuobstwiesen, as they are called in German, were always a familiar term for me, but only through the research for this blog post I have learned why this century-old landscape is a special cultural treasure and what important economic ecologic and social functions it fulfills.
When I started looking looking for a proper translation for Streuobstwiesen, I found that there is a whole debate on how to best translate this word.
If you break the word up into its single components, it translates to this:
Streu – bedding, litter, mulch
Obst – fruit
Wiese – meadow, grassland, field
However, I felt that just using the translated term does not convey what makes this area so special. As it is always easier to translate something that one understands, I started reading up on the topic and here is what I learned:
Orchard meadows are a traditional form of growing fruit and they are used as hay or mowing meadows.
In the past, these orchards were the basis of sideline agricultural businesses. Farmers drove their animals to eat in the meadows. Often there are also large numbers of meadow herbs and they provide the livelihood of 2,000 to 5,000 species. In particular, bees play a crucial role in the pollination of fruit trees.
On orchard meadows are high-fruit trees of different types and varieties and different ages, in contrast to the intensive low-stemmed fruit cultivation in monocultures.
The trees are made up of diverse varieties of apples, pears, cherries, nuts, plums. The trees are laboriously and carefully cut each year, resulting in a good yield.
Orcharding in the 19th and the first half of the 20th century had great cultural, social, ecological and landscape significance. Due to the intensification of agriculture as well as the construction and settlement, however, meadow orchards were decimated in the second half of the 20th century. Today they are among the most endangered biotopes in Central Europe.
Larger, landscape-defining orchards are still found today in Austria, in southern Germany, on the northern slope of the Kyffhaeuser Mountains and in Switzerland.
The orchards between Alb (Swabian Jura) and the river Neckar, with around 26,000 ha and 1.5 million fruit trees, form one of the largest contiguous orchards in Europe. There are also large-scale fruit trees areas designated as “Important Bird Areas” by BirdLife International and reported by the state of Baden-Württemberg according to the EU Birds Directive as bird sanctuaries in the European Union.
The old fruit varieties are particularly resistant to diseases and pests, which largely can be dispensed with the use of pesticides.
The successful mix of animal husbandry and landscape management produces ecologically high-quality fruit and meat and at the same time one can experience the diversity and uniqueness of nature.
I used the following sources for research: