Photo: Jan Riephoff
The thrill of the first seedlings
"Beates bunte Tomaten" (Beate's colourful tomatoes)
From a hobby to a sideline business: Beate Pieper has professionalized her passion for organic tomatoes and is bringing many long-forgotten varieties to market.
It all began when she purchased six packets of seeds at a tomato fair. For years they were consigned to a drawer. But one day she rediscovered them and grew the first fruit in her garden in Wolfenbüttel. The 54-year-old medical technical assistant (MTA) has now leased a section of arable land and turned it into a business. Her blond hair tied into a knot at the nape of her neck, the organic farmer stands in front of one of her four plastic greenhouses, where blots of violet and black stand out among the green and red.
The petite woman pushes her glasses back on her nose and sweeps through the rows like a whirlwind, picking ripe fruit as she goes. "This is an Oxheart" the expert says as she points to a big shiny bright-red fruit. "This one's a 'Striped Zebra,' the black one there a 'Black Crimea.'" Beate Pieper has 800 perennials planted in an area covering 600m2. More than 60 varieties are represented, many of them exotic or long-forgotten. "I have cultivated all of them myself. Very few are available as seeds."
She pops a greenish "Miss Kennedy" cherry tomato into her mouth. "It's very sweet!" she says. The long ripening period, the nutrient-rich humus soil, the horse manure – all of these give the tomatoes their vigour and intense flavour. In August, at the height of the harvesting period, gardener Pieper picks as many as 100 kilos each week – on her own, as a part-time job. She still holds a half-time position as an MTA working on pharmaceuticals at the Technical University of Braunschweig.
Beate Pieper spends most of her free time in the field, where she also grows herbs and other vegetables. She has been selling all of her produce at the farmers' market since 2011. In winter, when the soil lies fallow, Beate reduces her workload. But it doesn't take long before she starts missing her plants. "The thrill I get when the first seedlings begin to sprout in spring is indescribable."