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.

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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!

Joanne

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.

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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.

Joanne

Sunday Jane’s Walk: Planting and Growing Community in the Heart of Regina

This Sunday might be the busiest community outreach day to date for Prairie Spruce community members. You’ll have 4 opportunities to interact with community members this weekend:

  • Dave, Faye and Jean will be doing a presentation at the Regina Unitarian Fellowship @ 10:30am
  • Dave & Lois will be at the 50+ Celebrate Showcase & Tradeshow.
  • Myself (Ruth) and André will be leading a Jane’s Walk

And of course, we’ll have some folks at the Information Centre in case anyone drops in too.

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But this blog post is about our Jane’s walk in Canterbury Park…

Prairie Spruce Commons will settle into a place recently re-imagined and re-developed.

The location (land) on which Prairie Spruce Commons will be built has been home to many people and communities before us.  All on Treaty Four Territory.

Now an emerging medley of retails and residential, this neighbourhood of just under 8 acres was once the Property of the Anglican Diocese of Qu’Appelle, and for a while hosted a large community garden project of Grow Regina.

This is a neighbourhood in the heart of the city where it will be possible to rely on bicycles, car-share and pedestrian modes including strollers, walkers and wheelchairs too.

The newly built retail and residential developments are integrated into the history of this place. The Bishop’s Court, St. Chad’s College, Anson House (the official residence of the secretary of the Anglican Diocese of Qu’Appelle), St. Cuthbert’s House, and Harding House are each designed in the Collegiate Gothic style.

The entire site and its five original buildings are Provincial Heritage Property and have received Heritage Awards in the Exterior Renovation category. 

The land on which Prairie Spruce Commons will be built, it seems, has never before had built structures on it but from 1994 to 1998 was part of an extensive Community Gardens project of Grow Regina. 

Prairie Spruce Commons now has a compelling opportunity to plant and grow community in the heart of the city.

Come and join André and me for a Jane’s Walk of our neighbourhood on Sunday, May 3rd from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.  We will meet at the PSC Information Centre (it’s the little building with flags on it).

Ruth

  

Badham Boulevard Steeped in History

Saskatchewan Legislative Building

For the residents of Prairie Spruce Commons, Badham Boulevard will be their new address.  In the spirit of community and friendly neighbours, this location is so fitting for Regina’s first cohousing complex. The area was formerly used by the Qu’Appelle Anglican Diocese property for a school and nunnery.  The diocese was established in 1883 and became a strong community of parishioners who provided ministry through major trends and events such as drought, immigration and settlement, war, and the Great Depression. In 2005 20 acres of the land was sold to Fiorante Homes and Commercial Ltd who will create a high-quality residential development that will respect the former Anglican Diocese of Qu’Appelle buildings’ provincial heritage designation. In a place steeped in history, Prairie Spruce Commons will make history by building Regina’s first cohousing community.

The actual street, Badham Boulevard, is named after Mike Badham.  Mike was passionate about Regina and he was committed to making Regina a better place for everyone.  He was an educator for most of his career. Later he was a city councillor. Mike died in a tragic accident in 2006. Throughout his life he was a community volunteer who served his community with pride. In respect for all he had done for Regina, a park and this street was named in Mike’s honor. Prairie Spruce Commons is all about community – I think Mike would be very pleased that it is being built on his street.

JoAnne N.