Organic Landrace Tomatoes Shine at the 80th OMÉK Exhibition
ÖMKi wins the Tradition and Innovation Award in Agricultural Economy
While this year’s tomato-growing season is at an end, organic landrace tomato seedlings of the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture in Hungary (ÖMKi) are once again in the spotlight: they were awarded the “Tradition and Innovation Award in Agricultural Economy” at the National Agricultural Food Exhibition and Fair (OMÉK). The organic landrace tomato seedlings received the highest award among products that best serve sustainable development in agriculture.
Besides sustainability, the foods and products nominated for the award had to meet additional strict criteria. These included the documentable historical past of the product, whether it had links to a specific geographical area, and how traditional its production methods were. According to the written description, knowledge associated with the product should be based on innovative solutions. In addition, only products available on the market were eligible for the award. In establishing this award, the aim of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Agricultural Marketing Centre in Hungary was to raise consumer awareness of traditional and regional products. The prize was awarded by an expert jury to the most innovative Hungarian agricultural development within the category.
A marriage of tradition and innovation
Landrace varieties were created in particular areas, over long periods of time, through a combination of natural selection and the selective efforts of our farming ancestors. Today, industrial agriculture has largely pushed these landrace varieties out of general cultivation. By learning about and consuming these varieties we not only improve our health, but also contribute to agricultural diversity, and to keeping our agricultural heritage alive. That is why landrace tomato seedlings also have an important role to play in sustainable agriculture. Their organic certification guarantees that the seedlings are producing free from synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, meaning that they are grown according to a cultivation method which contributes to the long-term protection of our health and natural environment.
ÖMKi’s organic landrace tomatoes have extraordinary genetic diversity and unique gastronomic properties, and whether it’s the yellow colored Cegléd, the Tolna straggler, the purple colored Fadd, the pepper-shaped tomato of Gyöngyös, the Máriapócsi cocktail tomato, or the oxheart tomato of Mátrafüred, their shapes and tastes reflect the unique characteristics of different Hungarian regions, as well as their particular agricultural and culinary traditions.
In addition to their varied uses and flavours, landrace varieties have also been endorsed by some of the most prominent representatives of Hungarian gastronomy. Organic tomatoes appeared three years ago in the kitchen of Bocuse d’Or-winning Hungarian chefs Szabina Szulló and Tamás Széll, and last year in the kitchen of Dóra Havas, one of the most popular gastro bloggers in Hungary. The founder of the Lila Füge (Purple Fig) brand became an ambassador for ÖMKi landrace tomatoes. Last year, the chef of the Pajta Bistro in Őrség, Richárd Farkas, accepted the title of ambassador for ÖMKi landrace tomatoes by adopting forty seedlings, in order to promote these unique varieties. As ambassador, he also nominated the ÖMKi landrace organic tomato seedling project for the Highlights of Hungary award, as part of which the project was ranked 5th among the 55 best Hungarian creative achievements in February of this year.
Reacting to the award received at OMÉK, Dr. Dóra Drexler, the director of ÖMKi, said the following: “We are delighted to have received this latest award, which praises our research and awareness-raising work. Since the day we recieved the seeds from the gene bank of Tápiószele nine years ago and launched our on-farm research on the organic cultivation of landrace tomatoes with the participation of organic farmers, the project has gone from strength to strength. Recognition from Hungarian gastronomy, professional awards, and the positive feedback of consumers all give us invaluable motivation to continue the work.”
In 2021, in response to growing consumer interest, ÖMKi delivered 20,000 seedlings to stores, and sold an additional 1,500 seedlings through its own webshop and delivery points. This year, for the first time, organic landrace tomatoes even reached the gardens of the very young: ÖMKi supplied tomato seedlings to 30 kindergarden as part of the Ovikert Program (Kindergarden Program), so that young children can also experience for themselves how delicious and healthy vegetables grown and freshly picked in their own garden can be.
However, the long-term goal of the organic landrace tomato seedling program is about much more than sales and changing attitudes. ÖMKi is striving to put the entire production cycle of seedling cultivation on a sustainable path: in its ongoing research, it is developing an organic potting mix to minimize the use of peat, with the aim of establishing a circular economy, thus supporting farmers and gardeners committed to organic cultivation.
Cover photo: Csaba Pelsőczy