The taste of sand and clay

Discover the best Brabant has to offer in Halderberge

Halderberge lies right on the border of sandy and clay soils. Here, you’ll find one or the other or a mix of both. And they’re fertile soils. Of all the fruits and vegetables being grown in the Netherlands, those grown in Halderberge taste best.

Taste the earth

When talking about wine, it’s clear as day. First, there’s the type of grape. But where does that grape grow? How much lime does the soil contain? What does the plant feed off? What minerals can be found in the soil? Bordeaux is made in Bordeaux, and champagne in Champagne.

The sweetest sugar beets come from clay soils. The tastiest leeks are grown in sand. The origin of other agricultural products might not be discussed as often as that of grapes, but that doesn’t make the soil they grow on less important. Crops grown on the wrong type of soil taste awful.

Where roots root

A handful of clay is sticky and solid. It’s full of minerals and nutrients and will hold water. The latter is very beneficial in summer, but can be a problem in months with lots of rain. This soil is for plants with strong roots. Clay is perfect for growing flavourful pumpkins and beautiful celeriac.

Sand flows through your fingers. It’s dry and light. And not at all nutritious; nutrients are flushed away by water. Spades get through sand easily, just like the roots of plants. Asparagus and strawberries, among other crops, love sandy soils.

And then there are the areas where the two soils meet, with various mixed forms of sand and clay, each totally different in character. Turnip greens grow best on loose soil while rhubarb does well on a mixed soil that is rich in humus.

All crops grow well in Halderberge and the top chefs and shopkeepers know exactly where to get all the best fruits and vegetables.

Thank the Cistercians

When crossing the region, you’ll see a varied landscape thanks to the different types of soil. Polders, peat deposits, fields, woods and moors. And, of course, farmland and pastures.

But it wasn’t always like this. About 700 years ago, Cistercian monks had to travel through a virtually incaccesible wasteland. The few people they encountered made a living of a small peat polder or small-scale turf deposit.

The Cistercians made their way through marshes, past lakes and over rough land and eventually settled on higher and dry land, on top of a slight hill. Using spades and scythes, they were able to develop farmhouses and tithe barns. The crop fields and pastures surrounding the hill were expanded and became the Halderberge region.

Life is good on the hill

Wading up and down the swamp to visit the weekly market proved to be a hopeless venture. So everything the Cistercians needed had to be grown on or around the hill.

But by coincidence – or was it a holy blessing? – the border between sandy and clay soils runs straight across the hill. And so the monks could feast on flavourful products. They could actually grow everything they needed and wanted themselves. It was hard work, absolutely. But it tasted sweet!

And so it’s not very surprising that the diocese of Antwerp decided to have a monastery branch built in Hoeven, so the bishop would have somewhere nice to go if he wanted to leave the noisy city behind and come to contemplate and pray in peace. Later, when the border between the Netherlands and Flanders was drawn, the bishop of Breda chose the hill of Hoeven as his residence. He preferred it over the city.

Rough beginnings

The lands of sand and clay that would later become Halderberge, were crossed by a sandy hill that was created during the last ice age. The areas in the west and north were plagued by the sea. The salt water cut away pieces of land and left layers of sea clay behind.

On the other side of the hill, rivers and streams that brought sand and rocks to the area were formed. These streams regularly fell dry, causing the sand on the bottom to be blown away. This created sandy dunes.

That’s the story of Halderberge in a nutshell. It’s reflected in the woods. Conifers grow on the barren sandy ridges. Where sandy soils are mixed with the sea clay layers, you’ll find forests with beeches and oak trees.

It’s reflected in the landscape, with its polders, sandy hills, rivers and moors. And it’s reflected in the rich flavours that can be found in Halderberge.