The History Behind Prairie Spruce’s Heirloom Bintje Potatoes

In the last blog, I told the story of how I was introduced to Bintje potatoes. In this blog, I will tell the story of how Canada was introduced to Bintje potatoes.

A long time ago, in a small Danish town lived a man named Gunnar Paulson. He had a loving family, but wanted more out of life. He wanted adventure. He wanted land. He wanted a better life for his children. Some other people in the same small town had family members that had moved to Canada. These new Canadians wrote about the wide open spaces, the cheap farmland, and the beautiful summers…. and how much they missed Danish food. Canada sounded exotic. Canada sounded like an adventure. And as far as Gunnar knew, no one had been eaten by a bear, frozen to death, or died of loneliness. After many discussions with his wife, Gunnar decided to pack up his family and move to Wainwright, Alberta.


Just down the street from Gunnar lived a young Knud Mortensen. He was looking for a job. He was looking for adventure. Canada seemed like a great place to find both. With his parent’s blessing, he accompanied the Paulsons to Canada. Also accompanying the Paulsons were three Bintje potatoes. They were hidden in Gunnar’s jacket pocket as the family passed through Canadian customs. The potatoes, as well as the rest of the family and Knud, survived the trip to Wainwright. They grew and multiplied, both the Paulsons and the potatoes. Soon there were enough potatoes to share with Knud’s aunt and uncle who lived in Tilley, Alberta. Tanta (aunt) Marie looked after the potatoes with the same love and devotion as the Paulsons.

Knud, tired of working as a cook and laborer, returned to Denmark where he met and married Eva. Two boys and a doctorate in plant pathology followed soon after. When the opportunity to return to Canada to complete his post graduate work arose, Knud accepted. He assured Eva it would only be for a year and it would be a wonderful opportunity for the boys to learn English.

That was almost forty years ago. When Knud moved out to the farm, he got some Bintje potatoes from Tante Marie and began growing his own potatoes. When he moves into Prairie Spruce, the potatoes are coming along…but probably not in his pocket.

The one sure way of enjoying heirloom Binjte potatoes? Joining the Prairie Spruce Cohousing community, of course!


Prairie Spruce Potatoes in our Garden, and in Bed?

About 20 years ago, when I was a new bride, my mother-in-law Eva saw me peeling store bought potatoes. She promised to bring me in some potatoes from the farm the next time she came to town. Having grown up on a farm with the obligatory giant farm garden, I was none too fond of store bought potatoes and was happy at the prospect of real potatoes.


As promised, Eva showed up a few days later with a 5 gallon pail of potatoes. I was wondering if they would be red potatoes (best for making perogies) or white potatoes (best for baked potatoes). It never crossed my mind, that there were any other kinds of potatoes. Apparently there are; she had brought me a pail of Bintje potatoes.

They look delightful, don’t they. What you don’t know is that the size you are seeing them right now is pretty close to real size. The big ones are about the size of you thumb. I kept a smile plastered on my face as I thought these were the potatoes we left in the garden in the fall because they were toooooooo small. Keep smiling… I am not peeling those things. Keep smiling… maybe I can bake them or something. Keep smiling…what am I going to do with 5 gallons of teeny tiny potatoes.

I soon discovered that the absolute best way to eat Bintje potatoes is at Eva’s house. She boils them with the peels on and Knud peels them while they are still super hot. The potatoes are then put in a bowl, covered with a potato doily (yes, they have one – don’t you?) and put into the bed under the feather quilt until the rest of supper is ready.

I have become a Bintje potato purist as I don’t bother with butter or gravy, I just eat them plain. Sometimes I even skip dessert and just have more potatoes. Well, on the off chance someone in the family reads this, I guess I should correct that. I eat dessert and then eat more potatoes.

If you ask Eva, I’m sure she would make them for you at our next community shared meal. If you ask Knud, he might even tell you the story of how those potatoes got to Canada. These types of stories are of course best told in community, and around a table filled with great food. Let us know if you’d like to be part of our next community meal.


Three Generations Under One Cohousing Roof


Prairie Spruce is a multigenerational cohousing community.  This usually means that the community of residents as a whole consists of children, adults and seniors. At Prairie Spruce, multigenerational cohousing takes on a somewhat unique flavour, albeit common within cohousing communities: we have different generations of the same family moving into their own private condo units within the community. Roger will be living there as well as his parents Dave and Lill. Murray is moving in, along with his sister Lois and mother, Loraine.

My family is the only one that will have three generations living in Prairie Spruce. Henning, my husband, and I will be moving in with our son, Erik. Henning’s parents, Eva and Knud, will be moving in also. Before you think I am just the best daughter-in-law in the world, you should know three things. First, I am very lucky that I get along very well with my in-laws. They are very nice people. Second, they will be living on the first floor and we will be living on the second floor. Third, they will be looking after my dog part time as he likes to be outside in the summer and they just happen to have a terrace. We are all looking forward to the benefits of living separately within the same condo; living apart, together.

The three Mortensen generations spent some time last Monday morning working together at the Information Centre, roto-tilling the ground in preparation for planting potatoes and zucchini. We’re looking forward to sharing the fruits (vegetables?) of our labour with the community, neighbours and our extended cohousing family.


Life in Commons

Commons /kämənz/: [noun] – land or resources belonging to or affecting the whole of a community.

Now I really get it! Prairie Spruce Commons! I have been looking at the promotional packages for other condominium buildings in Regina and see that their suites are comparable to what Prairie Spruce Commons is offering. But outside the door of those suites, where are the Commons? Where are the shared spaces that help to create community and culture? It would be like living in Regina without Wascana Park! Not something I want to imagine.

But I do enjoy imagining my life in the commons at Prairie Spruce Commons. I mentally go through the list of vistas, in all the directions afforded to me from all the commons. I could go to the commons dining room on the main floor, or the terraces on the second and third floor and see what is happening in the western sky. I could also go to the sewing room/arts room on the third floor, or the lounge on the first floor to see the north sky. I could check out the view from the two guest rooms. Or perhaps the view into our courtyard, garden and play structure from the commons kitchen. I could look upon the cool hobbyist projects in the workshop with all those power tools that I love. I imagine enjoying the use of our media/music room, our bike share space, our exercise room… These will all be part of the commons at Prairie Spruce Commons.

Beyond our amazing shared amenities, there is the commons within and beyond the building: that precious commons of air, water and people. Residents eager to install solar voltaic panels and invest in sustainable and efficient design. Innovators willing to investigate the use of grey water recycling in Regina. Neighbours seeking to reduce overall energy consumption and lighten their footprint through resource sharing.

What a joy it will be to live in a community that celebrates the generosity of the commons.


Prairie Spruce Pico de Gallo

Fall is officially here! Frost was predicted a few days ago, so my husband picked all the remaining tomatoes. It was quite a crop with lots of Beefsteak Sweet Cherry and Roma tomatoes. My favorite was a heritage tomato that was shaped like a pear, an inch long, and a beautiful shade of gold. It looked amazing mixed in with the other tomatoes.

One of my favorite ways to use garden tomatoes is pico de gallo, a fresh salsa. This recipe from Flavors Magazine reminds me of Cozumel, Mexico. There is a tiny restaurant there, far, far away from the cruise ship docks, that has the most amazing fresh salsa and pastors. Pastors are pork that is cooked on a vertical spit, seasoned with chilies and pineapple. It is sliced thin and served on small tortillas. Amazing stuff with a little pico de gallo on the side!


Praire Spruce Commons Pico de Gallo 

  • 2 large ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded and finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp. Onions, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup cilantro leaves, rough chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, stemmed and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. Oregano
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 tsp. Honey
  • Pinch of sea salt

Combine all ingredients; season with salt to taste. Mix well and let rest 10 minutes before serving.

I’m looking forward to the tomato and cilantro harvest from the Prairie Spruce Commons planters on our deck and roof terraces, as well as the large community garden in our courtyard. I’m also looking forward to our next trip to Mexico! Travelling will be so much more carefree knowing my home will be looked after while I am gone.

What’s your favorite recipe for fresh tomatoes?