Tulips from Antwerp

The Netherlands is generally known as the land of tulips, yet that is not entirely true: The first tulips in Europe were grown and traded in the area around Antwerp, Belgium.

Picture by Pixabay

The first tulip bulbs in Europe arrived by boat in the port of Antwerp in 1562. The story goes that a merchant found these strange crops among a load of fabrics from Turkey. Thinking they were onions, he tasted some. Because the taste was disappointing he threw the remaining bulbs onto a compost heap, where beautiful tulips bloomed the following year.

Until the middle of the 20th century, tulip cultivation was the main economic activity in the border region between the northern part of the city of Antwerp and the Dutch border, which is now called the districts of Berendrecht, Zandvliet, and Lillo. Around 1900 the largest number of tulip growers were to be found in this region. The slightly more southerly location ensured that the tulips started to bloom earlier, that they could be sold more quickly. Around the Second World War, the flower fields in Belgium were a tourist attraction.

Unfortunately, the enormous port expansions and the associated expropriations from the 1960s caused the tulip growers to leave for more open spaces in the Netherlands. Yet there are still a few renowned tulip growers left in Belgium.

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