Austria's Largest Vegetable Garden
Nestling among the vegetable fields and visible from afar lies Thaur, a village that benefits both from its favourable, south-facing location and from the shelter afforded by the mighty Nordkette to the rear. It's a place which thrives on the traditional ways and yet, whatever the season, it is synonymous with leisure and hospitality.
For centuries its inhabitants have taken full advantage of the pleasant climate. The land here has been intensively farmed and so there is every reason why it is sometimes described as "Austria's largest vegetable patch". Some 60% of all the radishes grown in Austria and many other types of vegetable are cultivated in the "North Tyrolean Vegetable Region". The radish harvest is celebrated every year on Hall's Oberer Stadtplatz with musical accompaniment, local delicacies and, of course, radishes. Many millions of crisp tubers are bundled together here every year. The farmers' market stalls and the Thaur farmers' store also supply food and drink, notably the Austrian Dietary Chefs who prepare original dishes from radishes. Music, traditional schuhplattler dancing, a raffle and a children's programme form the supporting programme. The focus, of course, is on fresh radishes of which there are plentiful quantities.
They are crisp, hot and bright red and, as the first domestic crop, herald the arrival of spring. Along with lettuce, radishes are, in terms of land cultivated, Tyrol's most important crop (approx. 160-200 hectares annually). The yield when harvested is about 100 of the little red beauties on every square metre and that unbelievably translates into about 200 million radishes or 20 million bunches. All radishes are pulled from the ground by hand, inspected and then bundled. They are the little brothers of the white radish and belong to the cruciferous family – and so are therefore related to the cauliflower and cabbage. The scientific name Raphanus sativus is derived from the Latin word radix = root, with sativus meaning sown, planted or cultivated.
Crunchy or furry? If radishes are to grow evenly, they must be irrigated with adequate water and harvested at the right time. The tubers will then be firm and crisp. "Furry" or "woody" radishes are usually the result of too much heat and too little water.
The requirements for good vegetable cultivation: soil and climate.
The inner Alpine microclimate of the Tyrolean Inntal Valley is ideal for vegetable cultivation. Great day/night temperature differences matter when it comes to the growth of strong and healthy plants. The strong influence of the "fön" wind helps to dry the soil and plants quickly.
Light gravel or Inn sand make the ideal soil for the vegetable farmers' fields. For the first spring crop, the land sloping to the south between Rum and Absam is much favoured: like a solar panel, it heats up quickly even in the weak spring sun and allow sowings from as early as mid-February. Market gardeners are almost exclusively family-run farms. But they still manage to cultivate an astonishing range of produce. In addition to the main crops such as radishes, lettuce, cabbage and carrots, the growers also supply over 60 different products ranging from artichokes to onions.