“Kiek mal wedder in” means good bye in Platt-German and translates to an invite to come again. I explored the region of the heath in summer 2018. And we remember that it was hot- so hot that we used every patch of shade on our way to the Schnuckenherde (heath sheep herd) and our water bottle was empty very quickly. After a 40 minute walk on sandy trails we could see the herd- a big grey patch under the shade of the trees. Like I said, it was hot. The only ones who didn´t seem to care about the heat were the shepherds and our guide, Mrs. Bouma. Both of them were telling us about the correlation of the sheep and the plant growth and historic anecdotes about the “Heidjer”. The scenery was made up by the herd of sheep, constantly circled by shepherd dogs – hard to keep my hands off the camera.
Where is this? The name was given by the little town of Lüneburg, located between Hamburg and Hannover which got wealthy through salt and is a member of the Hanse until this day.
Heidschnucken is a type of wild sheep which can handle the barren soils of the Lüneburger Heath. Why have you never heard of them? Because there are only a few herds of Heidschnucken left – the farming is laborious and the outcome little, bad premises for the profit based food industrie.
The shepherd plays an important role in the complex symbiosis between heath and sheep, which has grown over the centuries. He leads the herd across the heath, while the sheep not only keep the sprouts short, but also destroy the spider webs while running around. That way the bees can reach the flowers and collect the delicious Heath honey. It is important that the route changes daily because too much sheep excrement over fertilizes the plants.
You will now wonder why we have the meat of these rare and special animals on the menu: quite simply – the shepherd Carl Kuhlmann actually lives from the sale, so while enjoying the delicious meat you also support the shepherd and animal welfare.
Emergence of the heath:
The glaciers of the last ice age left sand and boulders in the area between Hamburg and Hanover, barren soil that gives little. After the forests were lumbered during mideaval times in order to build the Hansa fleet, heather, juniper trees and Heidschnucken spread. Only the emergence of mineral fertilizer enabled the cultivation of potatoes and cereals. What was a continuous heathland at the beginning of the 19th century has shrunk to a few spots today and is almost unknown in the rest of Germany.
The purple flowering heather, which enchants the heathland from late August to September (except in the heat summer of 2018), provides a particularly thick, amber-colored honey, due to the high proportion of protein compounds. The requirement is, however, that the Heidschnucken regularly run over the surfaces and destroy the spider webs, which form over the plants in the summer and thus provide access for the bees. Furthermore, a distinction is made between “heather honey” and “genuine German heather honey” – the first also contains honey from other EU countries, the second comes exclusively from the Lüneburg Heath. We buy the heather honey from apiculture Ahrens.