Doesburg, The Netherlands – Go for the mustard!

We wanted to see how mustard is made so we drove to the tiny town of Doesburg about 90 minutes east of Amsterdam near the German border.  We traveled for the mustard but ended up being totally charmed by the 13th century Hanse village of Doesburg.  (Keep reading and I’ll share a mustard soup recipe, below.)

The Hanseatic League (now referred to as “Hanse”) was a group of merchant guilds and merchant towns in nothern Europe that banded together for commerce and defense beginning in the 1400’s.  They had their own armies and legal systems but they were not a government.  Their trade routes extended from London to Scandinavia to Estonia.  They fought pirates, built ships, and controlled trade in the region for more than 300 years.

Source: VilNews

Because they belonged to the Hanseatic League, little Doesburg became a prosperous medieval town until the River IJssel silted over.  Today about 12,000 people live in the beautifully preserved town.  Doesburg is popular with Europeans and more than 4,000 camping spots are located just outside of town for visitors.

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City street in Doesburg, the Netherlands.
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Pretty house. Doesburg, the Netherlands.
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Love these window well covers. Doesburg, the Netherlands
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City street. Doesburg, the Netherlands.
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Shoes displayed in a store-front window. Doesburg, the Netherlands

Right in the middle of town you’ll find the Doesburg Mustard Factory.  They’ve made mustard in Doesburg since 1457 and still sell it in grocery stores today.  According to their website, “Mustard is offered at every meal and is used with most vegetable and potato dishes” in Doesburg.

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The Doesburg Mustard Factory. Doesburg, the Netherlands
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The mustard museum’s collection of this and that formerly used for mustard making. Doesburg, the Netherlands

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Mustard seed. Doesburg, the Netherlands

We dashed into the factory in the late afternoon and joined the last tour of the day with an entrance cost of about $3.  A mustard maker explained how the seeds are removed from the dried bushes and soaked in a mixture of vinegar and water and spices for several days.  The seeds soak up all that goodness and then they are ground into mustard.

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Grinding mustard by hand with a small stone in a bowl. Doesburg, the Netherlands

The factory uses millstones that are hundreds of years old to grind the mustard.  Here’s a video I made of our tour.  Not the greatest quality, but you’ll get to see how mustard is made.

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Here’s the mustard as it leaves the grinding wheels. Doesburg, the Netherlands
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This machine used to be used to fill the jars. You can see in my video that a different machine is now used. Doesburg, the Netherlands
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These are the precious little pots used to package the mustard at the factory. Doesburg, the Netherlands

The best part, of course, was the tasting at the end of the tour.  We were so busy gobbling up fresh mustard and Gouda cheese that I forgot to take photos!  Here’s the Mustard Soup recipe I promised earlier.

Doesburgsche Mosterdfabriek Mustard Soup

200 grams smoked bacon (1/2 pound)

40 grams butter (2.5 tablespoons)

1 onion

60 grams flour (1/2 cup)

1/2 litre milk (2 cups)

1/2 litre water (2 cups)

3 tablespoons Doesburg mustard

1 leek

Cut the bacon into small cubes; slice and finely chop the onion and leek.  Melt the butter in a soup pan and gently fry the bacon, onion and leek until soft.  Add the flour, stirring all the time so that it does not burn.  Let this cook for a few seconds. Gently add the milk and the water. When this has been thoroughly sitrred, add the mustard and season to taste.  For an extra luxurious soup:  Add a couple of tablespoons of cream with the mustard.

Aalsmeer FloraHolland

8,000 steps  0 churches, 0 castles, 1 culture

FloraHolland is the largest trading market for flowers in the world.  It’s located just outside of Amsterdam in Aalsmeer, is open to the public from 7 -11:00 am, and costs about $6 to enter.   The massive warehouse, shipping yard and trading center must be one kilometer long and a few hundred yards wide.  Wear your walking shoes and prepare for an unusual adventure into the world of trade in The Netherlands.  You’ll be rewarded with a new respect for business and the astounding sight of beautiful flowers packed for trade.

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Even though the just-cut flowers are gorgeous, the story here is about sales, not beauty.  More than 4,000 people work at FloraHolland, participating in the trade of millions of dollars of flowers from all over the world.  It is a bustling work place of more than 1 million square yards.  The flowers move from field to auction to your home in less than 48 hours.

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Even though you walk along the raised platform for at least 10 minutes to get to the center of the action, you can see over the rails to the action in the warehouse below and there are explanatory signs posted in several languages all along the walkway.  One sign explained, “Floraholland membership consists of thousands of growers representing approximately 60 countries…they hail from countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia, Israel, Columbia, Equador, Belgium, Italy and the UK.”

We climbed to the second floor of the warehouse and then walked a loooooong platform high above the action to learn how flowers are packed in boxes according to type of flower or plant or decorative vegetable or grass, then rushed to this trading center (the largest of several flower auctions in the Netherlands), sold off in a Dutch auction, then quickly moved to the brokers for redistribution back out across Germany, england, Belgium, France and other points across mostly Europe.

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Growers list all the lot information on a form that accompanies the just-picked flowers to FloraHolland.  The flowers arrive after the auction closes at 11 am and are placed on trolleys.  Flowers that need cold are moved to cold storage and plants that need warm are moved to warm storage.  Auctions begin at 6 am but this is a 24-hour business.

The flowers are brought into the center on long “trains” so the flatbeds pass  by loaded with, for example, pink roses.  They are inspected by buyers who call up to the auction floor and report on the quality of the plants.  About 120 buyers have seats on the auction floor and sit in a tiered semi-circle staring at two huge round calculators on a screen.  Buyers can also participate remotely by internet.

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Here’s an example of how the auction works.  A photo of pink roses appears with a suggested price of, say 29 cents a stem, and a box on the clock screen tells how many cases of roses are available, say 120 cases.  Within seconds, buyers bid at the 29 cent price and also input how many cases they want.  As the flowers are sold off, if buyers really want pink roses, the price starts to climb as the quantity starts to drop (think supply and demand).  If no one wants pink roses today, the price may start to drop and late buyers may get the remaining pink flowers for 18 cents a stem (or lower) until all the roses are solde.  If everyone wants pink roses today, the price quickly rises and late buyers may pay 35 cents or more per stem.

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All 120 cases of roses can sell off in about 10 seconds but I saw no auction last longer than 30 seconds. The flowers need to move fast so they can stay as fresh as possible.  In a few minutes time, you might see 12 auctions for a dozen different colors of roses followed by 10 auctions for six different colors of irises.  The highest priced flower I saw was an almost black iris; it went for 95 cents per stem.

Here is another explanation of the auction process taken right from the information signs:  “Circles, lamps and numbers – The auctioning is led by an auctioneer.  The auction clock is a circle numbered from 1 to 100 around which a red lamp moves.  These numbers correspond with the prices offered.  The system used is known as a Dutch Auction, which means going from a high price to a low price.  The auctioneer will start the lamp at a high number (i.e., a high price) and then let it go down.  If a buyer wants to bid on a lot, he presses a button.  If he is the first one to do so, the lamp stops and the number at which it has stopped is the price.”


The grasses and decorative vegetables are all part of the flower sales.  In addition, some flowers arrive already packed in individual boxes so there might be a “train” load of long stemmed flowers in long whiteboxes with gold lettering and a ribbon around the box.  More than 2,500 flowers trains move through the facility each hour.

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Once the flowers are sold, they are packed into containers for the appropriate buyers and shipped out immediately to points around the world.  In this photo you can see where carts are being loaded with the purchases of individual buyers within 90 minutes of their sale.  Once the buyer is done for the day – well before noon — the cart is transported to a truck and immediately shipped out to the buyer’s designated destination.

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We got up extra early for this experience because FloraHolland opened at 7:00 am, giving us time to tour before heading on to Amsterdam from Wassenaar.  We drove by car and did not see any public transportation as FloraHolland is located on the outskirts of town in a rural/industrial area.  The parking lot is on the roof of the warehouses and is so large that it is confusing to figure out where to park and then it is confusing to figure out how to get out of the parking lot when you leave.  If you decide to visit, make sure to make note of where you leave your car and how to get to the exit.  There is no clear line of sight to see where the ramp that leads you off the building’s rooftop is located.  You’ll eventually figure it out but pay attention when you drive up to the roof.

This is a must-see attraction and I’ll be back to visit again.  It’s definitely a marriage of beauty and business.