On their organic farm near the Wadden Sea in the north of the Netherlands, Ale Havenga and his son Hero grow mustardseeds, which are processed just a little further down the road in a traditional mustard mill to make a delicious, strong, coarse Groningen mustard, according to the traditional Groningen recipe of course. "It's great to be able to supply mustard seeds to a local artisan company," Ale says.
"If you drive into the polder towards the Wadden Sea dike, you will see the field of mustard, you can not miss it", organic farmer Ale explains when I ask him at his farmhouse where I can find the mustard field. And he is right, when I drive up the small road behind the farm, I soon see the large, beautifully yellow-coloured field of mustard plants. It is mid-June, and the crop is in full bloom. It is a simply wonderful sight, that big golden field in the open plain against the Wadden Sea dike. "A lot of mustard used to be grown here in the past, the area was famous for it, but mustard has all but disappeared as a crop in the Netherlands," Ale says. "We’ve started cultivating the black Groningen mustard seed again in 2017."
The small artisan mustard mill is located just a few miles from Ale’s farm. It is there that the locally grown organic Groningen mustard seeds are made into genuine Groningen mustard, locally, traditional and on a small scale. "It was a long-standing wish of ours to use locally grown black Groningen mustard seeds in our organic mustard," says Wendy, who together with her husband Sten makes mustard in the small artisan mustard mill in the north of Groningen. "And for a few years now we've been able to do that and it's fantastic," she says.
“The mustard we make is nice and strong as Groningen mustard should be” tells mustard maker Sten. “Come, I’ll show you how we make it.”
In the first half of August, farmer Ale contacts me again: "If all goes well, we'll be harvesting next week." "At least, if the weather stays good," he adds. A few days later, I drive to the Wadden coast in the north of Groningen again. It is a shimmering day, but when I reach the coast, a gentle sea breeze is blowing and the combine is already hard at work. The field that had been yellow a few months earlier is now golden brown and the plants are full of mustard seeds.
We walk to a tractor with a cart on which large wooden crates full of mustard seeds are placed. "The mustard is nice and spicy, but not too spicy. "Yellow mustard seeds are the mildest, the brown and black mustard are even spicier." The combine harvester arrives and unloads a load of seeds into one of the large crates.