Wassenberger Sämling Peach

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Wassenberger Sämling

The Wassenberger Sämling peach gets its name from the ancient town of Wassenberg, which is located on the edge of the Maas-Schwalm-Nette Nature Park that straddles the German-Dutch border. Legend has it that a baroness brought back some peach pits from Italy and planted them at Elsum, a moated castle. Another story tells of an emigrant from Wassenberg – known locally as “the American” – who returned home and introduced the fruit.
Wassenberger Sämling is a long-lived peach tree from the Rhineland that is particularly suited to loose, sandy soils. The special feature of the variety, which was once very common in the Heinsberg region, is its reproduction as a seedling: the tree does not require grafting. Wassenberger Sämling is characterized by vigorous growth and a long-lived, frost-resistant, broad crown. It can be grown as a bush or half-standard tree. The maturation period is somewhat uneven, with fruit ripening over time from late August to mid-September. The fruit is medium to large. Seen from the front, the peach is roundish oval with a pronounced seam that divides the fruit somewhat unevenly – partly with a deep rear furrow. From the side, the peach appears round, resembling a tennis ball. When ripe for picking, the fruit is greenish, and later whitish-yellow. One quarter to two thirds of the skin is deep red, in some cases with a speckled appearance. The stem cavity is deep, narrow and furrowed toward the belly and back of the fruit. The terminal projection, which is not very pronounced, is located on a small point in a furrow in some cases. The peach has a very short, button-like stem. The flesh, which is greenish white to dark red around the pit, has a very juicy, melting consistency. Its taste is distinctly acidic and slightly tart. The flesh does not cling to the pit. The skin is velvety. Despite its firm flesh, the peach is not suitable for storage.
The Wassenberger Sämling is particularly suitable for processing, in which it develops its unique flavor. It can be used in many ways: preserved in halves, processed into jams and jellies, or squeezed as a juice. The peach is extremely low in calories, with 100 grams having only around 40 kilocalories. Fruits and vegetables harvested in a ripe state are rich in nutrients, and the regionally distributed peach also boasts this advantage over its imported counterparts.

The demise of preserve and jam-making is not the only reason for the widespread disappearance of the Wassenberger Sämling peach. The commercial cultivation of the variety is risky due to its unreliable yield. Furthermore, as an early bloomer, it often falls victim to late frosts. To save their crops, orchard owners used to go as far as lighting fires under the trees whenever it was too cold.
The Wassenberger Sämling can be affected by leaf curl, scab, Monilinia brown rot and gummosis depending on location and weather conditions. Pest infestation, a lack of labor for tillage and pruning, cold weather during the flowering period with little bee activity, and residential development on former orchard land gradually led to the abandonment of larger orchards. Finally, cheap imported fruit in supermarkets led to a decline in demand for Wassenberger Sämling peaches.
In the year 2014, roughly 200 trees stood in orchards and around 500 in private gardens in the Heinsberg district and the Neuss Rhine district. Official statistics are not available, but according to newspaper reports, 150,000 kg of peaches were harvested from a stock of 15,000 trees in 1953. From this, a commercial harvest of 8,000 kg can be deduced as a normal yield in the present.

As of 2006, the cultivation area of the Wassenberger Sämling peach had declined to approximately four hectares. By 2014, the area had increased to around five hectares. New acreage is being dedicated to the fruit in regions with suitable climatic conditions, such as the Rheinischer Obstsortengarten on the site of a former Wassenberger Sämling orchard. The town of Wassenberg and the German Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) operate the Obstsortengarten fruit garden as a part of a project supported by the Rhineland Regional Association and Rhineland Biological Stations. The project, which is dedicated to promoting biodiversity, has succeeded in in recovering numerous lost varieties, as described in the handbook Lokale und regionale Obstsorten im Rheinland – vom Aussterben bedroht! (Local and regional fruit varieties in the Rhineland – threatened by extinction!). Peaches are still available as fresh fruit from two orchard operators, while a nursery sells the trees, and several dining establishments in Wassenberg use the Sämling.

In the 1930s, urban orchards were established above all in Wassenberg’s upper town and the Birgelen district. Peach growing in the region reached its peak in the 1960s, with 20 orchards and a harvest of up to 7,500 hundredweight per year. Many a family achieved modest prosperity growing the peaches. Since the 1990s, the orchards gradually disappeared from Wassenberg. However, the townspeople are aware of the former importance of the Wassenberger Sämling and keep the memory alive. The local carnival association, for example, awards a Sämling-themed medal, and the town of Wassenberg created the mascot “Sammy, the Sämling” to help revive peach tourism. Furthermore, all new citizens of the town are given a peach tree for their domestic garden as a gift. These activities have been successful in promoting the peach: the extremely good harvest in 2015 was sold out.

When fresh, the Wassenberger Sämling is slightly tart and has a distinct acidity. Its delicately tangy, sour flavor develops its fullest potential in conjunction with sugar in preserved whole fruit or jam. The trees are pruned heavily in the fall, as only new shoots bear fruit.

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Production area:Wassenberg

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Fruit, nuts and fruit preserves

Nominated by:Slow Food Düsseldorf