Discover the Unknown

Jam like no other: Every morning in the Bavarian forests, they pick fruit and then craft wonders

Jam like no other: Every morning in the Bavarian forests, they pick fruit and then craft wonders

A little before 11 a.m., if the weather is nice, Udo leaves their tiny shop and delicatessen factory full of enticing scents and colorful jars with strange names, in the center of Mittenwald, while his wife Marianne (Mary) stays in the “Mary's MarmeLaden - Die Feinkostmanufaktur”. 

“Collected here, made here” is their motto, so that’s exactly what they’re going to do again today. No cultivated wild herbs or wild fruits are an option; they’ll use only what they find in the wild around Mittenwald.

The Town of Music, Mountains, Painted Houses, and… marmeladen

Twenty years ago, Udo Schönthaler was into playing drums and selling instruments. Marianne and Udo came to Mittenwald in Bavaria from Stuttgart and fell in love with the area. They let go of the instruments, let go of Stuttgart, and decided to stay here and open “Mary's MarmeLaden - Die Feinkostmanufaktur”. When you see and smell the area, when you climb the mountain and walk along the river, it's not hard to understand why.

Mittenwald is a fairy-tale resort town at the foot of the Karwendel, Germany's most popular hiking region, with colorful, picturesque houses and cobbled streets, where you can see the peaks of the Alps from every window. If you head west, forested paths pass Lautersee Lake and the Laintal waterfall. To the northwest, Hoher Kranzberg’s slopes have trails and lookouts.

Mittenwald's fame, long before its Instagrammable beauty and hiking became trendy, was brought about by violins, which have been produced in this town for four centuries. Although violins can be found elsewhere in the world, and there are no such shops as Mary’s Marmeladen anywhere else in our known world, this unique shop has somehow managed to remain a secret. 

Mary's MarmeLaden - Die Feinkostmanufaktur

With just eight reviews on Google at a time when every kebab stand has at least a hundred, it's an absolute mystery. Unless... admirers of this magical place want it to remain their secret. If that's the case, I apologize to them, but this is an article I had to publish. Or maybe no one manages to remember the 37 letter name “Mary's MarmeLaden - Die Feinkostmanufaktur”. I dare you to try.

The major part of Karwendel, the largest mountain range of the Northern Limestone Alps, belongs to the Austrian federal state of Tyrol, while the adjacent area in the north is part of Bavaria, Germany. The Schönthalers live in Lautasch, Austria and work in Mittenwald, Germany. “It's a region that doesn't include a border for us. Here Europe works,” - says Udo.

Sometimes Udo stays in the shop, while Marianne goes to the mountains. Marianne actually started this whole story when, while Udo was selling instruments, she (as a trained wholesaler) couldn't find a job in the region, so she began selling products they cooked at home, in nearby Garmisch-Partenkirchen weekend markets.

If it is indeed her turn today to stay in the shop, Udo will get on a mountain bike (not an e-bike, he emphasizes!) and head towards Kranzberg, Schmalensee, or one of the other peaks or forests they have discovered and fell in love with years ago.

“The mountain world around Mittenwald is naturally particularly suitable for us. The world is still in order here. There's an immense diversity of wild fruits, and especially wild herbs, on the mountain meadows, which are otherwise hardly found. No air pollution from industry, no genetic engineering or pesticides due to the absence of agriculture. This allows us to collect and process wild herbs and wild fruits with appetite."

Sound of silence

Uphill, it will take him slightly more than half an hour by bike.  These days, he prefers the sound of silence over drums. Udo, bicycle, humming of bees, birds singing, waterfalls, deer rutting… and again silence.

And then, when he gets to a place that feels right today, he will get off his bike, and the gathering of the ripe wild fruit and herbs begins once more.

The romantic image of mountain meadows is quite realistic. If it's summer, under the mild and pleasant Bavarian sun, in the clean alpine air which one can easily become addicted to, surrounded by intense smells of pine, sometimes the sharp scent of lavender, Udo will search for wild strawberries and wild blueberries in the woods. He will also come across red elder and rosebay willowherb.

Outside of the forest, in the meadows, he will look for valerian, St. John's wort and red clover in the grass. And sounds of water complement the silence, around lakes and small mountain rivers, there will be meadowsweet and watercress. 

"First bend and then tear off," recommends Udo and puts the first raw white flowers in the basket. He calls the meadowsweet “meadow chewing gum” because it tastes like the Double Bubble from the good old 1980s, he claims.

“I particularly love meadowsweet, spruce tips, or wild strawberries.” - says Udo.

“Today was a little harvesting of rosebay willowherb!” - Udo told me, excited. I was glad for Udo, Marianne and rosebay willowherb, although I have no idea what that is. Just as I have no idea what most of the things I mentioned earlier are (I know what mint is!), but a big part of the magical allure of these colorful jars lies in those weird names and the fact that these are plants and fruits that you will never be able to find in ordinary stores, nor are you likely to ever try them.

Each time he finds what he was looking for, it fills him with joy. That’s the feeling that makes him wanna pedal and search again tomorrow. But the best feeling is to find a new great spot. He’ll try to remember it.

Secret recipes (that everyone is welcome to see)

At 2 p.m. he will return to the shop. He never collects for more than 2, at most 3 hours, so that the herbs and fruit can arrive at the workshop completely fresh. And so that Udo can arrive at the workshop without back pain. 

Front part of “Mary's MarmeLaden - Die Feinkostmanufaktur” is full of colorful jars with strange names, while in the back is their “delicatessen factory”, as he calls it.

Marianne and Udo then start preparing what Udo has picked. They’ll hurry to prepare extracts based on water or alcohol, they’ll freeze many wild fruits and herbs to be able to reproduce fresh throughout the year, they’ll make “marmeladen” and jellies… from (depending on the season and the catch of the day) daisies, dandelion, meadowsweet, spruce tips, stone pine, red clover, sloe, elderberry, cornelian cherries, rowan berries, rock pear, wild strawberries, etc. Dried, they’ll also partly process them into herb salts or teas.

They’ll make wild garlic pesto, Bavarian olive oil, chilli oil, wild flower salt, cheese sauces. Then there are syrups made of meadowsweet, elderberry, red clover, and so much more.

All this while caramel with microlocal goat milk is being cooked for hours and hours, in order to end up with their customers' favorite spread. The prices of spreads and marmelades range from 5 to 15 euros for a jar, but they will probably soon realize that it’s worth much more.

They’ll make liqueurs from beech leaves, dandelion blossoms, barberries, stone pine, spruce tips and cornel cherries. 

“With meadowsweet, we process not only the flowers, which is rather common, but also the young, tender leaves for our "Druidengelee". Nobody else does that. We make a liqueur from young beech leaves, which nobody else has known so far. Our "Fleurs et Sel" is a combination of wild flowers we collected, which you can only find at our place. We also make a wild strawberry jam, which is extremely rare, if available at all. Wild strawberries become bitter when cooked. But we have now found a way to retain the original aroma without having to change our basic recipe - 2 parts wild strawberries and 1 part sugar. Our alpine milk caramel or goat milk caramel, a kind of Dulce de Leche - cooked for four hours but with regional milk. "Da Mittenwoida," herbal liqueur made from fresh wild herbs, is certainly unique.” - says Udo.

Everything is prepared in a glass kitchen in the back part of the store, while customers come in and out. Everyone is welcome to see what's being prepared, and to buy it as soon as it's packed into jars. 

Their first neighbor, literally a meter away from the shop, is Das Marktrestaurant, a Michelin-starred restaurant by Andreas Hillejan. Part of what they collect and prepare always ends up at the neighbor's tables: spruce tip liqueur for dessert, fruity sauces with cheese, or syrups for ice cream.

"With each passing day, we discover more and more wild fruits and herbs growing in our surroundings, and through a lot of experimentation, we transform them into delightful products. Our range has been expanding constantly and now boasts over 200 unique offerings!" - Udo shares.

Not everything works though. These days Marianne and Udo are experimenting again with the fresh leaves of meadow sweet to keep their bubble-gum taste. The problem is it's not heat-resistant. It doesn’t work. They will not give up.

And there’s a new day tomorrow for picking. If it doesn't rain, and if it's the weekend, they will close the shop and go out together.


Mary's MarmeLaden - Die Feinkostmanufaktur is located at Dekan-Karl-Platz 21, 82481 Mittenwald, Germany. (16 km from Garmisch-Partenkirchen, 37km from Innsbruck, 117 km from Munich)

You can also buy their products on their webshop:

This is not a sponsored article, nor will we receive a portion of the profits from the products you buy.

fruit Alps syrup herbs Germany jam marmelade flowers forge forged liqueuer

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