07 January 2022

As the Bee Flies in Tiraspol District

1886 Map of the Tiraspol District, Kherson Province

Just before the holidays, I had a brief email exchange with a food historian who remarked on my grandmother’s recipe for pfeffernüsse that appeared in the last issue of the Glückstal Colonies Research Association Newsletter. Our conversation revolved around the ratio of lard it called for, its possible use for extracting the fat-soluble flavors in the scant amount of star anise and clove in the recipe, and also the inclusion of what I described as “interesting” honey. By interesting, I meant to imply anything that didn’t come out of a plastic bear. Let me explain. 

The German colonists who lived in the Glückstal colonies were farmers and also bee keepers. Beekeeping was something they brought with them from Germany. There are historical German beekeeping guides, calendars, newspapers and books in the digital collections of libraries in Germany, including several in Die Bienenbibliothek (bee library) at Regensburg University Library. The colonies of Glückstal and Neudorf were noted as engaging in “extensive” beekeeping operations, likely not only for the honey but also for the wax needed to make candles. The two colonies were only about 4.5 miles (7 km) apart, as the bee flies. The honey produced probably had the terroir of whatever pollen those bees harvested, which I image added to the flavor of whatever it was used to sweeten—including our beloved Christmas pfeffernüsse. What the characteristics of that honey might be could be discovered by researching what grew wild near the Glückstal beehives and what was cultivated that needed pollinators. I was curious.

Glückstal Mother colonies showing fruit and grape orchards in 1886.
Crop reports seemed like a good place to start for learning what was cultivated.  

1810 Crop Report 
(File 134-1-283, State Archives of the Dnipropetrovsk'k Region)
The first crop crop report for the Glückstal colonies was dated 1 December 1810, a year or two after settlement. It included the colonies of Glückstal, Bergdorf and Neudorf. Kassel was not included as it had been newly established in 1810. The report recorded the colonists growing the following: winter and summer rye (Wintter Roggen and Sommer Roggen), winter and summer wheat (Wintter Weizen and Sommer Weizen), buckwheat (Buch Weizen), oats (Hafer), barley (Gerste), millet (Hirse), potatoes (Kartoffeln), peas (Erbsen), Turkish beans (Türkeischen Bohnen), beans (Bohnen), lentils (Linse), hemp (Hanf), flax (Flachs), and hay (Heu).

1811 Crop Report 
(File 134-1-320, State Archives of the Dnipropetrovsk'k Region)
The following year, the same crops were reported in the report dated 1 December 1811: winter and summer rye, winter and summer wheat, buckwheat, oats, barley, millet, potatoes, peas, Turkish beans, beans, lentils, hemp, flax, and hay.

1814 Crop Report 
(File 134-1-398, State Archives of the Dnipropetrovsk'k Region)
Although there was a crop report for 1814, no specific crops were named in it. 

1820 - Spring 1821 Crop Report 
(File 252-1-314, Odessa Regional Archive)
In this report dated May 1821, beekeeping (Bienen) appears along with reports of planting trees grown for wood (Holzbäumen) and fruit trees (Obstbäumen), specifically mulberry trees (Maulbeerbäumen) for silk. The specific list of crops has also been pared back to include rye, winter and spring [sic, summer] wheat, barley, oats, lentils, potatoes, and peas. According to the translators’ notes, there were other crops grown, but the pages were illegible.

1825 Statistical Reports of the Glückstal Colonies
The 1825 crop report comes from Deutsche Bauernleistung am Schwarzen Meer, Bevölkerung und Wirtschaft 1825 (German Farming Statistics of the Black Sea, Population and Economy 1825). Georg Liebbrandt (1899-1982) discovered a set of statistical documents in the archives in Odessa, had them translated from Russia to German in Berlin, and Hans Rempel organized and published the translations in 1940. I have a used copy of this book on order, as I am curious about the other enclaves around the Black Sea. Reported in the translated excerpts (German to English this time by the Glückstal Colonies Research Association), the following crops were grown: winter rye (Winterroggen), winter wheat (Winterweizen), summer wheat (Sommerweizen), buckwheat (Buchweizen), oats, barley, millet, potatoes, corn (Mais), peas, small beans (Fasol', Kleine Bohnen), lentils, hemp, flax (noted as Lein this time instead of Flachs), and hay. It also enumerated the trees planted: acacia (Akazien), willows (Weiden), poplars (Pappeln), mulberries, apples (Apfel), pears (Birnen), plums (Pflaumen), cherries (Kirschen), peaches (Pfirsiche), apricots (Aprikosen), nuts (Nüsse), and grapevines (Weinreben). 

I have to note that by 1825, the four Glückstal Mother colonies had collectively 161,471 grape vines planted, with 85,570 in/near Glückstal colony itself. (~250 vines made 1 barrel or 60 gallons of wine)

All this reminded me of an agricultural map I happened upon last year of the district of Tiraspol from 1886.

The Tiraspol District was established in1795 in the Russian Empire and went through several re-districting and province changes before it settled in as a district in Kherson Province in 1803. When the German colonists arrived in South Russia, the Glückstal, Kutschurgan, Beresan and Liebental enclaves were all a part of the Tiraspol district until 1825 when the district of Odessa was established. The Glückstal enclave (including the colonies in the Hoffnungstal parish) remained in the Tiraspol district along with some of the Kutschurgan, Beresan and Liebental colonies until 1923. The point of this is that there were no hard lines around the German enclaves that kept them administratively together.

This map shows what settlements in Tiraspol had significant agriculture in place in terms of gardens, state-run nurseries, fruit orchards and vineyards. It also lists what places would partake in survey of what appears to be increasing the number of grape vines grown by 1895. Among them the German colonies of Neudorf (#9, Нейдорфская), Hoffnungstal (#20, Гофнунгстальская) and Kassel (#22, Кассельская). I'm not sure the results of the study are available online anywhere. 

Some of the crops and trees mentioned in the crop reports needed pollinators, but not all of them. The trees that the colonists planted caught my eye since I have heard of acacia honey. But the German colonists preferred to plant willow trees over acacia trees maybe because acacias already grew wild? Bees will stay roughly two miles (3.2 km) from their hive, but they will travel up to five miles (8 km). What else grew wild in that range around Glückstal and Neudorf?

Ultimately, I don’t know what characteristics honey from the Glückstal colonies might have had...and maybe still have...and how it might have flavored pfeffernüsse. I would be an interesting topic to dive into from a number of different directions, not just culinary and agriculture science. If anyone need a writing topic, I'd be more than happy to read whatever you wrote. Until then, I’ll stick with my own advice of using “interesting honey” over what comes in the bear. 

Above is a lightly marked up version of the map above with some of the German
 colonies noted for orientation. Click on it to see a larger version.

Sources and Further Reading:

  • Freeman, Margaret and Stangl, Thomas A., trans. 2004. “Glückstal Colonies Crop Report, 1820—Spring 1821.” In The Glückstalers in New Russia and North America: A Bicentennial Collection of History, Genealogy and Folklore, 223–33.
  • Rudolf, Homer, trans. 2004. “Statistical Reports of the Glückstal Colonies from 1825.” In The Glückstalers in New Russia and North America: A Bicentennial Collection of History, Genealogy and Folklore, 235–44.
  • Stangl, Thomas A. trans. 2010. “1810 Crop Report. State Archives of Dnipropetrovsk’k Region. File 134-1-283. Glückstal Colonies Research Association. Glückstal Colonies Research Association 2021 Data Drive.
  • Stangl, Thomas A. trans. 2010. “1811 Crop Report. State Archives of Dnipropetrovsk’k Region. File 134-1-320. Glückstal Colonies Research Association. Glückstal Colonies Research Association 2021 Data Drive.
  • Stangl, Thomas A., and Koenig, Donn, trans. 2013. “1814 Crop Report. Glückstal District. File 134-1-398, State Archives of Dnipropetrovsk’k Region, Dnipropetrovsk’k, Ukraine.” Glückstal Colonies Research Association. Glückstal Colonies Research Association 2021 Data Drive.
  • “Карта Тираспольского уезда с обозначением населенных пунктов и земских дач,  принятых за единицы исследования, и виноградников.” (Map of Tiraspol County with the designation of settlements and zemstvo dachas, taken as survey units, and vineyards.) 1886. Russian Empire. https://bit.ly/tiraspol-district.    
  • “Тираспольський Повіт (Tiraspol Region).” 2021. In Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. https://bit.ly/wiki-tiraspol-district.