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