REPUBLIKA EN:Bukovec – trademark of Macedonian cuisine

“Pass me the “bukovec”” – is one of the most common sentences that Macedonians can be heard saying while having lunch (breakfast or dinner), whether it is at home, in a restaurant or a small tavern around the block, and especially if there is baked bread on the table. The “bukovec” is a trademark of our traditional gastronomy, but can rarely be seen in its original form today and is even in danger of completely disappearing. “Even though you can find “bukovec” in every restaurant in the country and abroad, this type of pepper originates from the village of Bukovo, near Bitola, and was named after it. We are making efforts to collect old seeds from this type to preserve it and keep the authenticity” – “Slow Food Macedonia”, who are making a project to preserve “bukovec”, inform us. They say that the project’s goal is to preserve the red Bukovo pepper, which is locally characteristic and represents an important genetic resource, and popularize its growing and processing into a spice.

Regardless of commercial types, “bukovec” remains dominant spice
Three households that have seeds from the real “bukovec” type with authentic origin will be selected and the seed will then be analysed through certain parameters to confirm 30 typical properties. “If the Bukovo pepper managed to survive for more than a century, then its future lies with the local people. Commercial types were imported throughout the years, but the quality and the organoleptic properties were decisive for the selection of seeds from the nicely developed, ripe peppers at the end of each season” – Professor Suzana Kratovalieva, who is also involved in the project, said. “Slow Food Macedonia” has already met manufacturers from the village of Bukovo. They were also paid a visit by the “Slow Food” coordinator for the Balkan region, Michele Rumiz, and Cristiana Peano, Professor at the Turin University.

Great quality
“Bukovo is facing a high rate of village¬town migration. However, it has a long tradition and history, and peppers are its symbol. Therefore, preserving them will bring new possibilities for economic, social and cultural development of the community. Over the next months, we will develop a production protocol and define the properties in order to get a high and equal quality from the manufacturers. At the same time, the product will be promoted on a local, national and international level, starting with the upcoming International Fair for Traditional Food in Turin from 23rd until the 27th October” – Rumiz said.
According to professor Peano, who had the opportunity to taste “bukovec”, it has a great quality.

“Growing peppers on upland sites like Bukovo is economically unfeasible and is hard to place on the market. The few manufacturers in the village are mostly old people who sell it to their friends” – Peano said. The project’s realization will be made in the area around the village of Bukovo. It will involve field visits of experts, whose only goal will be to establish the properties of the fruits and the plants of the local population that are closest to the desired form. The seed has been preserved and transferred through generations, which is why bigger problems are expected. If there is not sufficient amount of seeds found, it will be bought from families that have such pepper. The standards from the International Institute for Genetic Resources will be used to characterize the plant.

Presidia – confirmation of the traditional way of production
A so¬called Presidium of the Bukovo pepper should also be made within the project – it represents a way of protection and confirmation of the quality and traditional way of production. “The name of the presidium can relate either to the production technique or the product itself, and can also be combined with the name of the geographical area. Forming a presidium also means establishing contact with the manufacturers – a meeting that is of fundamental importance with the goal of developing desire for further collaboration that will improve quality and promote the product” – “Slow Food Macedonia” informed. The presidia are active since 1999 and imply working with groups of small manufacturers, their union, support and connection with reachable alternative markets that look for, and appreciate quality. At the same time, presidia are a means of promotion, offering the opportunity to make contact with other manufacturers from abroad.

Bean and chickpea – next in line to preserve
“The fast way of living has overwhelmed us. Despite the great number of campaigns to preserve the old traditional recipes, they continue to disappear and have been replaced by western European habits. We like having a healthy life, but we don’t know how. We like to buy natural food, but can’t recognize it – whether it is local, organic or GMO – that is the consumers’ dilemma. We are doing just that – preserving the original, the indigenous types, the quality, the old traditional meals made “according to grandma’s recipe”” – “Slow Food Macedonia” informed. The organization also announced projects to preserve other Macedonian products such as the bean and the chickpea.

Mirjana Chakarova, MIA