An old boat bounces on North Sea waves. It sails in search of food. But its crew isn’t fishing. Instead, the sailors check on a bountiful crop growing beneath Danish waters.
In Denmark, coastal communities band together to grow food in “maritime gardens.” Those produce seafood snacks like mussels, oysters, or seaweed.
“Now we are out at the allotment, and we can see our area is marked by these yellow poles all around,” says Bernt Kjaer Soerensen. “We have blue mussels, and we have different types of seaweed.”
Founded in 2015, Kerteminde Maritime Gardens is one of the largest of its kind in Denmark with around 85 members. The watery garden lies about 550 yards off the Danish coast. Members pay an annual fee of 500 Danish kroner (about $65 in U.S. money). They work together to take care of the garden.
“The community grows mussels and seaweed for (our) own use. So we are not selling or distributing in any way,” explains Kjaer Soerensen.
Denmark has more than 5,000 miles of coastline. It should be no surprise that maritime gardens have taken root there. There’s thought to be more than 20 spread across the Scandinavian nation’s waters.
There’s another benefit to the sea gardens. Mussels filter harmful nutrients from water. The nearby Baltic Sea is one of the most polluted water bodies in the world.
“They say one big mussel cleans about five liters [a little over one gallon] of water in an hour,” says Per Andrup, the group’s treasurer.
Bowls of streaming hot mussels are commonplace in France and Italy. But the dish is less common farther north in Denmark, where the fish dish of choice is often mackerel or pickled herring.
Danes “don’t think of seaweed and blue mussels; they think of what is in their cookbook,” Kjaer Soerensen admits. “So there is a learning curve here.”
Members gather monthly to check on their produce. During a recent gathering, they shared a feast of mussel soup with community-grown vegetables.
Bodil Vaupel is 76 years old. She couldn’t pull her own weighty, mussel-covered lines from the water. So she sought help from the group.
“I probably walk by here twice a day, and I say, what’s for dinner? Oh, I think I’ll take a doggy bag and . . . get some mussels and go home and cook,” she says.
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. — Ecclesiastes 4:9
Why? God gave us all kinds of resources in His creation. That includes the sea and its produce as well as our communities. He intends for us to work together and to share in mutual blessings of goods and relationships.