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From the field straight to the table
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From the field straight to the table

Asparagus, apples, wine: The region has many culinary delights to offer. An ever-growing number of farmers and restaurant owners has started using and refining local products – just like farmer Norbert Kerschbamer, the Schwienbacher family and the miil restaurant.

Norbert Kerschbamer likes his asparagus best with Parmesan cheese and olive oil accompanied by a nice glass of Sauvignon, from his own winery, of course. We visit the 49-year-old Lana farmer out in his 1,600-square-metre-big and 800-metre-long asparagus field. It is the last day of this year’s asparagus harvest, a job for which he uses a special tool: an asparagus knife, a blade for cutting the delicate asparagus spears. First, he carefully removes
all the dirt around the asparagus crowns that have emerged
from the soil-filled trenches, before cutting the asparagus spears at the lower end of the plant – a process to be repeated until the entire crop has been harvested.

Later, he sells his asparagus to hotels and restaurants near his farm as well as to non-commercial customers. For this, the asparagus has to be sorted and washed before being delivered on the same afternoon. “They can serve their guests the asparagus the very same evening”, the farmer proudly says.

For Andreas Heinisch, chef de cuisine of the miil gourmet
restaurant in Cermes, buying fresh local produce is key. Every spring, the Schwienbacher family running the “Hofer-Hof Jausenstation” (tavern) in Cermes also get fresh asparagus right from the farm to their guests. An ever-growing number of restaurants now value regional, fresh produce from the farm straight to their tables.
Essen und Trinken-Speck aus Südtirol-Lana und Umgebung
essen-und-trinken-in-lana-aperitivo-schuettelbrot
Hands-on business
In the afternoon, right after completing the harvest, Kerschbamer planes the field to prevent the asparagus from growing further. “At some point, it would simply emerge too far”, he says while cutting spear after spear. It’s tedious hands-on work, but he is lucky to have three daughters that give him a hand whenever he needs one.
Thanks to his many years of experience, it is easy for Kerschbamer to identify all the spots where asparagus spears are to be found, even when the crowns have not yet emerged: You have to watch for fine cracks in the sandy soil. He cuts them at a length of 23 centimetres (approx. 9 inches), because all the spears going into sale should be at least 20 centimetres (approx. 8 inches) long. To prevent the crops from going stringy, asparagus has to be planted below the soil line, and each trench is then filled with
soil and covered with a dark-coloured tarp to keep the sunlight out, which would turn the spears violet. For all his hard work, he yields approximately half a kilo of asparagus per season and plant.
Back in 1997, Kerschbamer started planting asparagus between his apple trees in the village of Lana di Sotto. The soil here is very sandy and thus ideal for the delicate crop. Moreover, this zone is very prone to hail and has seen 19 bouts of hail over the course of 25 years – a serious threat to the apple yield.

Signature products
The other section of his two hectares of land is used for planting grape vines and some apple trees. In 1998, he started making wine for personal consumption.

In 2003, the farmer opened an o∞cial commercial winery called “Weingut Hännsl am Ort” (Hännsl, your local winery), and now grows seven different varieties: Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Schiava, Merlot, Lagrein and Pinot Noir. Moreover, they bottle DOC quality wines. “I like winemaking, because it allows me to be creative and design a signature product”, he proudly says. Some of the apples he grows are delivered to a fruit growers’ cooperative, others are used for making apple juice. His customers
appreciate all the hard work that goes into his products.
“I like being in touch with consumers, especially in the modern day and age when production has become ever more anonymous”, Kerschbamer says, glad to have opted for this strategy.
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From South Tyrolean Speck dumplings to sweet buckwheat desserts
In an effort to support farmers like Mr Kerschbamer, the Schwienbacher family only buy regional products for their Hofer-Hof inn and grow as many vegetables as they can in their own garden and the field next to their house. This not only means a lot of hard work, but also reduces their bottom-line revenue. Yet it is worth it.

“Seeing me bring in fresh lettuce straight from our garden makes their salad taste even better”, Luise Schwienbacher says about her guests, laughing. The 65-year-old prepares fresh dishes for the large numbers of hikers who visit their place every day from mid-March to mid-November, and the restaurant wouldn’t be the same without her. Her daughter-in-law Stefanie, 31, works with her in the kitchen.

The men in the family – Josef, 70, and Stefan, 31 – take care of the garden, the field and the greenhouse and see to the needs of their guests. On sunny Sundays just like today, the whole family is really busy, with the first hikers arriving as early as at 11am, waiting to indulge in all the Tyrolian delicacies and Mediterranean delights. They order traditional dishes like Speck dumplings with coleslaw,
spinach-filled turnovers or a treat known as "Schwarzplentenen Riebl”, a sweet, pancake-style dessert made from buckwheat. Specialty of the day: Cordon bleu made from locally produced meat and topped with wild garlic from their own garden.

Lettuce, watercress, beans, beetroot, berries and fruit can be grown here at an altitude of 800 metres, which is where the inn is located. “We only buy vegetables when we run out of something. And if possible, we try to procure them straight from the farms”, Luise says. She herself makes all the juices they serve – a total of seven di≠erent varieties including raspberry, cherry, currant and apple.
But there is even more on offer: The Schwienbacher family also smokes their own Speck (a bacon variety). “But we have to buy some, too, because we can’t make enough”. Butter and cheese are among the few products they have to buy. As they want to avoid long transport routes for their products, the four of them all agree to only buy from local dairies.
Essen und Trinken-Echte Qualität am Berg-Lana und Umgebung-fb
Essen und Trinken-Echte Qualität am Berg-Lana und Umgebung-veat
Dedicated to their guests
“We baked some bread yesterday”, Josef tells us: traditional
“Paarlen” bread made from rye flour and a little wheat, in addition to fennel, aniseed, caraway, blue fenugreek, salt and yeast. This type of bread was the reason why the farm, which was first mentioned in historic documents as early as in 1399, was turned into a rustic tavern back in 1990.

“This room used to be our private parlour”, Luise says, showing us a wood-panelled room featuring a traditional farm oven and ledge that has been turned into a dining area. Nowadays, only the rear part of the house is exclusively for personal use.
Their bakery is located on the bottom floor and has always been used for making bread for the family. “But people spread the word, and more and more friends and acquaintances came to us to buy bread”, Luise explains. This made her think about selling bread with bacon and cheese when two nearby taverns were closed at the same time and increasing numbers of thirsty hikers started showing up on her doorstep on their way to the Ochsentodsteig trail.

Since 2015, Stefan has been in charge of the tavern o≠ering a great view of the entire Etsch valley. He knew right from the very start that he wanted to run the family business someday. He is the youngest child of the family, with three older brothers and one sister, and has always worked at the inn. While serving his guests “Marende”, a typical Tyrolean snack platter usually consisting of bacon, Kaminwurzen sausages, cheese, bread and a glass of wine, Stefan sometimes plays a couple of songs on his accordion for his guests.
The dedication that goes into their cooking earned the
Schwienbacher family the seal “Echte Qualität am Berg”
(authentic mountain quality), which is awarded to businesses offering authentic, traditional, high-quality products.
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A culinary trip to the old mill
Top-quality local products can also be found at the miil restaurant in Cermes/Tscherms, located right next to the historic Kränzel residence and the maze gardens in a 14th century mill. The restaurant serves up unusual creations defined by a mix of regional and international cuisine: deer tartar on a “forest bed”, zander carpaccio with apple, horseradish and ribwort, asparagus from Marlengo, venison from Passiria, pan dishes with porcini mushrooms, potatoes and sea bass. Specialties cooked with US-American
beef or Mediterranean tuna complement the venison
and beef dishes made with meat from local farmers.

Andreas Heinisch has been miil’s chef de cuisine for six years now. We meet the 34-year-old in his kitchen, where he is busy dicing fresh porcini mushrooms. It is especially important to him to use as many regional, locally farmed ingredients as possible.
“We purchase a lot of meat and seasonal vegetables right from farms close by”, Mr Heinisch explains. Carrots, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, beetroot, strawberries, raspberries, apples and even goji berries come from local farms. The restaurant opts for local produce whenever possible.

All kitchen staff contribute to the modern creations served up at the restaurant. “When buying meat, we buy the entire animal and try to make good use of all its parts. We would like to show our guests that you don’t always have to go for the fillet to prepare mouth-watering dishes”, says the father of a little girl. Cooking is his passion, and he spends some 13 hours a day at the old mill.
“You really have to love your job to do that”. And it’s all the more fun when your guests love the food you prepare.
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