Growing Miracles in Iceland

When thinking of Iceland, the first connections one makes (at least that is my general experience when nominating my beautiful island of origin), are usually volcanoes, snow and waterfalls. Then often follows the question: “And what do people eat in Iceland”. I find that a great question to answer, because Iceland is rich of all kinds of ingredients that may come as a big surprise. One of the Iceland’s growing miracles, are the products of Móðir Jörð, originated in Vallanes, an organic farm in East Iceland.


Eymundur Magnússon and his wife his wife Eygló Björk Ólafsdóttir, run the organic farm Vallanes, near Egilsstaðir, East Iceland. The farm is leading in the organic sector in Iceland and is the second area in Iceland to be declared free of genetically modified organisms. These are the cornerstones of the farm’s philosophy and has given it its special status on which it lies upon.

To reap you have to sow

As we know to reap one has to sow. When Eymundur moved to the farm in 1979 together with his ex wife for 23 years, Kristbjörg things were quite different from the actual situation. He was in fact quiet perplexed about the harshness of the soil and given to the total absence of cultivation for over 20 years. But as he says “The earth was in fact naked and was waiting for me”.

Slowly, together with hard work and strong believing, the land revealed itself to have fantastic growing qualities.
The main focus of the company is on a traditional Icelandic barley type, bankabygg, which it has been growing since 1985. It has been given the “nickname” cool barley, but that is really a good name for it, Iceland being the most northern country in the world where grain is cultivated. The company’s barley product line includes as well as whole barley, pearl barley, barley flakes, whole wheat and barley flour. Coolness in general, is considered to give extra nutrition and flavor to plants and vegetables.

Amongst other products are fresh garden vegetables in the summer and autumn (up to 100 varieties), such potatoes, root vegetables and a vast selection of chutneys, crispbreads, jams, frozen vegetarian burgers, rapeseed oil and massage oils.

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Eygló proudly presenting the luxurious vegetables of Vallanes vegetable garden

 

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Two gourmet versions of golden turnip: chutney with dates and apricots and lactofermented with ginger & turmeric

 

 

The future lies in the revolution of the vegetable garden

In forty years 350 hectares of land have been transformed into woods (more then a million of trees planted), some of which make shelterbelts that protect the growing crops. Every year young volunteers from the WWOOF organisation come and work on the farm creating an international community that is loyal to the earth and learns respect for their surroundings.
Some years ago Asparhúsið was built, a house entirely build with wood from the area, that hosts a shop and restaurant, that offers of course local delicatessen.

Móðir Jörð has received various nominations and food awards, the most recent one “Premio Langhe Cerretto” given by the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, and the Cerretto winery in Langhe district, Piedmont, Italy.
Móðir Jörð is part of the Terra Madre Foundation of Slow Food in Piedmont, Italy, and Eygló is one of the founders of the Icelandic Slow Food branch.

The Slow Food Foundation was founded by the gastronomist and sociologist, Carlo Petrini in 1989. It envisions a world in which all people can access and enjoy food that is good for them, good for those who grow it and good for the planet. Click HERE to read the Slow Food manifesto.

The Foundation is always on the look for role models to carry on the precious message concerning preserving biodiversity, sustainable growing and teaching people how to cultivate and live in harmony with the earth.
The 2018 edition of the Premio Langhe Prize 22-24 of june, was entirely dedicated to the cultivation theme, and bared the title “The Revolution of the Vegetable Garden“.

Three growing winners were three. 1. Eymundur Magnússon in foreign category, for planting forrest and shelterbelts and creating feasible conditions for growing food in the Vallanes farm and with his work, making thus a significant contribution towards sustainability in agriculture, protecting the environment and biodiversity.
2. In the Italian category, the prize was given to Nicola del Vecchio, who has become a reference point for the Molise agriculture and 3. A special prize was given to Mohamed Abdikadir for his important contribution for giving birth to over 100 vegetable gardens in a difficult contest of his homeland, Somalia. The project is part of Slow Food’s project “Vegetable Gardens in Africa“.

 

Mohamid Abdikadir, Nicola del Vecchio, Eymundur Magnússon and Carlo Petrini
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The Vallanes vegetable garden has nothing to envy Cerruti’s luxorious vegetable garden, that provides vegetables to the renomated restaurant Orto in Duomo Square, Alba

 

The three  premiered together with Carlo Petrini founder of Slow Food and Alice Waters,  influential figures in world gastronomy. She has made a fundamental contribution to the definition of the cultural, ethical and social value of food and cooking, in particular regarding spreading the culture of organic and seasonal eating and the promotion of food education in schools. She is also owner of restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley.

Barley in the kitchen

Barley is an extremely healthy grain. It’s rich in vitamins, minerals and other beneficial plant compounds and is
an extremely versatile ingredient. Perfect for “barlottis” (the barley version of risotto), soups, breads….. and
perfect for Gabriels’ morning porridge.

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