Salty, sweet, delicious West-Brabant

Discover the rich and diverse landscape of West-Brabant where Van Gogh found his first inspiration. A fertile landscape of peat moors and hills created by the sea was reclaimed piece by piece. It is an area with unique freshwater tides that can be felt even in Gouda and ’s-Hertogenbosch. Filling up with river water, the drowned farming region Zuid-Hollandse Waard then became the Biesbosch National Park, and Dordrecht turned into an island. In 1815, after 150 years of Hook and Cod Wars (Hoekse en Kabeljauwse twisten), the Protestant King William I handed over the Biesbosch and Protestant Land van Altena to the Catholic province of North-Brabant. The shared urgency of taming the sea brought the Netherlands together. Experience the generous contribution of West-Brabant’s farmers, fishermen and top chefs to Brabant’s hospitality: taste the superior anchovies, salty asparagus and strawberries, discover the sweet sugar history of the region, and savor special local wines and beers


Culinary impressions on your plate

Surprising contrasts

West-Brabant, a fascinating landscape thanks to the contrast of sand and clay soils and fresh and salt water areas, is literally colored by the work of Vincent Van Gogh. His work is inspired in part by this colorful landscape of Brabant. Van Gogh recorded the moment. He often worked outdoors, devoting attention to light and color, on his famous sketches and paintings of farmers working the land. We see this today in the dishes of the Dutch Cuisine chefs, who incorporate structure, composition and color in a culinary experience on your plate. On this Dutch Cuisine route, we experience Brabant’s landscape through the eyes of a contemporary Impressionist. We discover the beauty of the hospitable culinary modern life in Brabant of 2018, read the landscape of the moment from the seasons, and beside color and light add flavor and color to the impression.

A taste of Van Gogh

Van Gogh and the impressions of the landscape

Vincent van Gogh was born in the West-Brabant village of Zundert on 30 March 1853. Vincent started drawing in his youth, often working outdoors. That means the landscapes and skies of Brabant inspired his first works.
The life and landscape of Brabant represented a lasting source of inspiration for Vincent van Gogh. We can see this in the work he made after he had already left the province. He always kept longing for the Brabant that had shaped him, which he clearly expressed in his letters. Even though most of his famous works were not made in West-Brabant, his very first work was born here. Let us look at the flavor and color of this landscape that inspired Van Gogh.
West-Brabant boasts a highly varied landscape: rich river clay soils and natural landscapes, areas by the sea and a unique freshwater tidal landscape that impart their flavors to the produce grown there. Asparagus, soft fruits, rye, wheat, oat, potatoes, rapeseed and sugar beet are grown primarily in the fertile parts of the province. The more arid, higher sandy soils are located mostly in the eastern part of West-Brabant and support livestock breeding, mainly sheep.

To Do

Vincent’s first memories

Van Gogh walking tour in Zundert

The Van Gogh walking tour leads through the area in which Van Gogh was raised. The tour starts in front of the Van Gogh House at an audio pillar and leads through the garden with the well of the house in which he was born,


Feel the rhythm of nature

The Biesbosch National Park, a unique freshwater tidal area

[BODY] The Biesbosch is a unique landscape in which the rhythm of nature can be felt due to the special freshwater tides. Ebb and flood do reach the river, but the seawater does not. In medieval times, the region of the Grote or Zuid-Hollandse Waard was a highly fertile piece of land that grew rich on wheat farming and peat excavation. Wheat was the primary foodstuff. Beer was people’s main beverage. Healthy people consumed mountains of bread and meat, washed down with large quantities of beer. During the Middle Ages, people ate to drink, and drank to eat. The rich natural landscape was vulnerable. Greedy peat merchants excavated too close to the dike and no money was spent on maintaining the dikes. This was aggravated by the Hook and Cod Wars. After the Saint Elizabeth Flood in 1421, the Grote Waard continued to fill up with river water. It was completely flooded by 1500. Bad management meant that the Zuid-Hollandse Waard became the Verdronken Zuid-Hollandse Waard, what later became known as the Biesbosch Natural Park. The fertile wheat-growing land made way for an extremely fertile fishing pond. Fishermen quickly replaced the farmers in this area, and the inland sea (a unique delta lake with free access to the North Sea) became a goldmine with shad, twaite shad, salmon, and sturgeon (which could weigh up to 400 kg!). While the area was reclaimed from the water bit by bit in the following centuries, it remained isolated from the rest of Holland and did not develop as quickly. Mainly for this reason, the greater part of the Biesbosch including the Protestant Land van Altena was handed over to the Catholic province of North-Brabant by King William I in 1815. Economic interests overrode religious interests.

The coast of West-Brabant

Brabant by the sea

The Brabantse Wal is on the coast. It is a very rich and varied landscape that borders the Eastern Scheldt, Holland’s biggest and wettest National Park. Part of it falls dry at low tide. The Eastern Scheldt also offers a variety of (alternative) protein sources, the most popular of which are oysters, lobster, sea bass and seaweeds. What immediately draws the eye as you enter the area is its rich colors: the beautiful reds of glasswort, the oranges of sea buckthorn, the dark greens of the seaweeds, the silver of oysters, and the deep shine of the mudflats.

Triple A

Ansjovis, Aardbeien en Asperges (anchovies, strawberries and asparagus)

In May, June and July, North-Brabant is all about the Dutch triple A: Ansjovis, Aardbeien en Asperges (anchovies, strawberries and asparagus). In these months, many restaurants serve a menu based on the triple A. And of course you will see and taste all of them on this route. The first A stands for anchovies, one of the most popular regional products from the Brabantse Wal. We mainly know anchovies in their canned form but they are delicious raw with a little salt and oil. The second A stands for strawberries, aardbeien in Dutch. Most of our Dutch strawberries are grown in Brabant. They are best eaten right off the plant, still warm from the summer sun, but at the very least at room temperature. The third A represents asparagus. The Brabantse Wal Asparagus is under official European protection since 2016 for its slightly salty flavor, which has no trace of bitterness. Growers of this delicious specialty can be found on www.brabantsewalasperges.nl.

Delicate fruit in good hands

Delicious soft fruit

Soft fruits require experience. The delicate fruits with their tender skin must reach the consumer quickly and without damage. Brabant boasts this experience. With a total revenue of 175 million euros, Brabant is the leader of the soft fruit industry in Holland. Kwekerij Loos in Moerstraten in West-Brabant, who sustainably grows 1,200,000 kilograms of strawberries annually, is one of the pioneers in sustainability. Loos was awarded the Nature Counts sustainability certificate in 2011. The Elsanta and Sonata strawberries, sweet strawberries full of flavor, are the company’s pride and joy. In addition to strawberries, lots of raspberries and berries are cultivated in Brabant. West-Brabant has many special soft fruit races, such as Bredase strawberry, Bredase radboud (raspberry), Bredase Rondom (red currant), Mierlose cherry, Mierlose black cherry, Udense Spanish cherry, West-Brabantse raspberry, Zundertse apple and pear, and Jochems Roem raspberry.

A piece of history

The Potato Eaters

North-Brabant, Flevoland and Zeeland are the main potato growing provinces in our country. Even though the potato might seem closely intertwined with Dutch cuisine, it was not introduced in Holland from South America until 1588. Around 1600, potatoes were known primarily to the European elite although it wasn’t really popular. People primarily ate grains in the Middle Ages and were less than enthusiastic about the potato when it was introduced. Only when grain prices rose steeply in 1750 and the rinderpest decimated cattle did farmers embrace the bulbous root. By the 19th century, it had become the only regular foodstuff in a family in North-Brabant: ’s morgens èrpels, ‘s middags èrpels, ’s avonds èrpels met soep, altijd weer die èrpels’ (’Potatoes in the morning, potatoes at noon, potatoes with soup in the evening—potatoes all the time’). Fries were not yet available to the farmers, being reserved to the rich as a relatively costly delicacy. On weekdays, common people ate potatoes with rapeseed oil, vinegar, salt and mustard, with a fork! This was because it was difficult to dip the hot potatoes into the hot sauce without a fork. So potatoes played an important part in making the fork a common implement at the table. It should come as no surprise that Vincent van Gogh’s first masterpiece represents the potato eaters. This is also the time in which stamppot (potato and vegetable mash) became popular. It, too, is now known as a typically Dutch dish. Even so, it is a relatively recent meal. The combination of potatoes, carrots, onions and brisket did exist already, but mixing and mashing them together did not start until 1880, resulting in the ever popular hutspot. Potato and raw endive mash (stamppot rauwe andijvie) was not introduced until 1930 and first served in Arnhem and Brabant.

Hitting the sweet spot

Sugar industry in Brabant

In the Middle Ages, honey was the main sweetener. In addition to being used as food, honey was also a medicine. At the church, one of the most important institutions in the Middle Ages, beeswax candles served as offerings. Rich Dutch citizens started using cane sugar in the 13th century. And after the West Indische Compagnie (Dutch West India Company) was founded, great quantities of cane sugar were imported to Holland and a big sugar industry emerged. Spices from the Far East were used in many recipes from the late Middle Ages, often combined with honey or sugar. Almonds were also very popular. These flavors are still commonly used in the recipes traditionally associated with December, such as speculaas, marsepein (almond paste), Christmas cookies with almonds, and bisschopswijn (mulled wine). Sugar was not popularized until the 18th century, when it was discovered that sugar could be made from beets. Beet sugar became an increasingly popular alternative and in 1811, sugar beet cultivation even became mandatory in Brabant. West-Brabant and Zeeland jointly have the greatest number of sugar beet farmers in Holland. Towards the end of the 19th century West-Brabant became an important sugar beet producer thanks to low labor costs and lower land prices. The sugar industry was attractive to many farmers since grain prices started to drop. From 1858 to 1987, Zevenbergen was known primarily as a sugar city, with four sugar factories at the height of its prosperity. Famous sugar-related companies from Brabant include Suikerunie, Hero, de Faam, Red Band, the Momo lemonade factory, and Kwatta chocolate.

Brabant’s hospitality

Breda garrison city

Breda has been a city of military importance for centuries now. The fortified city walls may have been brought down at the end of the 19th century, but the Royal Military Academy (KMA) is located in Breda even today. Breda’s natives therefore often lived for and off the army, making Breda a typical garrison city. Army barracks and military buildings were built, the garrison lived off local produce, and sought entertainment and relaxation in the city. Craftsmen and the hospitality business flourished. Selling to the army was considered a measure of quality, so small businesses were able to grow into successful companies. The presence of the garrison contributed to the CSM sugar factory, Kwatta chocolate factory, Hero preserves plant, Henkes jam factory, and Drie Hoefijzers beer brewery.

Foods & Boots

Walking route in garrison city Breda

The Foods & Boots walking route tells the story of Breda as a garrison city in which the locals live for and off the army. The route links military buildings and their history to stores, pubs and restaurants. Along the walk...

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