After the first frost, "Braunkohl" is eaten in Braunschweig. This popular vegetable is a variety of kale and is known as Braunkohl here due to the fact that it turns brown during cooking. It is traditionally served with Bregenwurst (smoked Mettwurst sausage) and, after a long winter hike, makes for a delicious treat.
Braunkohl or Grünkohl? Both are very similar types of cabbage, but can be distinguished according to the coloration of their leaves. Both Grünkohl and Braunkohl have high levels of vitamin C and are rich in folic acid and fibre, as well as minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron. In the past, different varieties were cultivated. Today however, it is mainly Grünkohl that grows on the fields around Braunschweig. Nevertheless, in Braunschweig this speciality is usually called Braunkohl. The Braunkohl season begins after the first frost and ends on Holy Thursday.
One of the first types of cabbage cultivated was the so-called “tall kale” or “cow cabbage”, the leaves of which grow violet to brownish, thus giving it the name Braunkohl. Cow cabbage grew as tall as a man. The lower leaves were used as cattle feed, while the top was reserved for human consumption. With cattle disappearing from the cities in the 20th century, the cow cabbage was replaced by the fast growing Grünkohl. However, the name Braunkohl provides a reminder of the days of the cow cabbage. In the spring of 2008, a project was launched in Braunschweig to try and rebreed the “original” Braunkohl. It is being cultivated in the Botanical Garden, but also in the educational and experimental gardens of the local gardening association, Gartenfreunde Landesverband Braunschweig.
What would Braunkohl be without it – the Bregenwurst
Not only in Northern Germany, but also in the Netherlands and Scandinavia, kale is a popular winter dish. In the Braunschweig region and all around Hildesheim and Hanover, Braunkohl is served with potatoes and Bregenwurst, a speciality from Lower Saxony. Bregenwurst (or Brägenwurst) is a raw or slightly smoked Mettwurst sausage made from lean pork, pork belly, onions, salt and pepper. The name derives from the pork brain that was originally part of the recipe, with Bregen or Brägen meaning brain in Low German. Today, the use of brain in Bregenwurst is prohibited.
Braunkohl dinners as a social highlight
In Northern Germany, the so-called Braunkohl trips or Braunkohl hikes have a long tradition. Families, friends or colleagues go for a winter walk that finishes at an inn serving the traditional kale dish. In order to stay warm in the freezing temperatures and to keep up their good spirits, walkers may play Boßeln along the way, a Northern German form of the game of bowls.
www.wikipedia.de, Braunkohl, 18 January 2012.
Braunschweiger Stadtlexikon, Meyer Verlag Braunschweig, 1992.