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You can taste variety again!

Rare landrace tomatoes from the gene bank are reconquering the gastro world

Gastro angel Marcsi Borbás, gastroblogger Dóra Havas, of “Lilac Fig”, last year’s winner of the Dining Guide’s Award for Talented Young Chefs, Richárd Farkas, and baker József Vajda all stand by long-forgotten landraces.

During the last two years, ÖMKi has achieved great success with unique tasting landrace tomato seedlings: their fruits proved themeselves in the kitchens of the two chefs, Szabina Szulló and Tamás Széll, who won the Bocuse d’Or two years ago and of last year’s most popular Hungarian gastroblogger, Dóra Havas, also known as “Lilac Fig”. This year, other well-known figures of Hungarian gastronomy also voted for them. The great traveler of Hungarian gastronomy and founder of, Marcsi Borbás, presents the growth of these excellent-quality seedlings in her kitchen garden at Őrség in her online video series Kertem (My Garden). Dóra Havas continues her special series on her website “on the tastiest sustainable Hungarian tomatoes”, and Richárd Farkas, the chef of Pajta Bistro at Őrség, who won the Dining Guide’s Restaurant of the Year Award for Sustainability shares his experiences on his restaurant’s Facebook page. József Vajda, who is a baker and the founder of “Pékműhely” (Baker’s Workshop) is devoted to ancient grains and tomato landraces, and provides a pick-up point in Buda where you can get these plants for home gardening. Organic seedlings of the Cegléd, Tolna, Máriapócs and Gyöngyös landraces are available in a limited number from the middle of May all over the country in Lidl supermarkets, and also by pre-ordering at five pick-up points in Budapest. ÖMKi experts are supporting the successful cultivation of these seedlings with an educational video and downloadable informative materials.

“There is a reason why different vegetables and fruit landraces have appeared. These varieties are best adapted to local weather and soil conditions. Their flavour and consistency are excellently suited to the local cuisine as well. It is important to protect these local flavours, for which we need the perfect ingredients. Variety pleases.” - pointed out Marcsi Borbás, who demonstrates the possibilities of these seedlings in an online video series titled Kertem (My Garden) on the website. “Tomatoes are an essential ingredient in Hungarian cuisine, but we still do not know and understand them really well. If you can, eat fresh and locally produced Hungarian tomatoes. Let’s be proud of what we have.” – says chef Richárd Farkas when explaining his choice. He starts this season with forty tomato landraces from ÖMKi in the kitchen garden of Pajta Bistro in Őrség.

“These are real culinary specialties, which until now have been technically only kept in gene banks. According to those who tried them, the Máriapócs landrace is better than commercially available cherry tomatoes, the Gyöngyös variety provides the complex taste of elongated, pepper-shaped tomatoes in a unique way, and the Tolna variety achieved the best position among fleshy, large-fruited tomatoes at the tasting event of the members of the Hungarian Gastronomy Association. The Cegléd variety, on the other hand, creates a real Mediterranean flavour with its crunchy, sweet taste and yellow color” – said Bence Takács, when describing this year’s selection. Fruzsina Gyöngy, the manager of the “Gyöngyszem” (Pearl) Organic Farm, which produces landrace seedlings, has shared a great deal of knowledge on growing tomatoes in an educational video available ÖMKi’s YouTube Channel.

Tomato landraces that lay forgotten until recently have been forced out of the market due to industrial production in recent decades. The researchers of the only independent organization in Hungary involved specifically in sustainable agriculture have studied them over the years to find the tastiest ones with the highest adaptability and to make them gastronomy treasures again. Up to 2016, a total of 35 tomato landraces were tested by ÖMKi, first on 28 cooperating farms, then in the gardens of enthusiastic growers. Last year, they were launched on the market with an immense success.

“This year’s events have shown how dependent we are on globalization. The situation that developed due to the pandemic is a chance for us to reevaluate what is important. To imagine what we can rely on in an even more serious and really extended crisis, left to our own devices. It is not enough to plant grass seeds in our gardens. I myself grow seedlings in my garden and I chose landraces, because they are more resilient under our local conditions compared to other tomatoes.” – argues the manager of the Buda pick-up point participating in this year’s promotion, baker József Vajda, who is also the manager of the Szerelmes levél bakery. In the Pest part of the city, the seedlings will be available through online orders at “Panelpék” (Block Baker) in the 23rd district, “Szatyorbolt” (Bag Shop) in the 8th district and in the shops of the Bread Community of Zugló. Lidl supermarkets are selling ÖMKi seedlings this year as well all over the country, from 14 May until stocks are exhausted.

Considering the crisis that occurred due to the pandemic, ÖMKi has offered 50 organic landrace seedlings for the Seeds4Hope program of the Budapest Bike Maffia. This program provides people living in homeless shelters with fresh vegetables by letting them take care of seedlings planted in pallet boxes at the shelter. The seedlings that were offered will be planted in the garden of the Shelter for Homeless People of the Hungarian Red Cross.

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