Sustainable gastronomy is the future
Tomatoes released from a gene bank are paving the way for a pioneering initiative.
Two ambassadors of this year’s landrace tomato project of the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (ÖMKi), the winner of last year’s Dining Guide Young Chef of the Year award, Richárd Farkas (Pajta Bisztró) and one of Hungary’s best-known gastro-bloggers, Dóra Havas (Lila Füge) have put their names to the Chefs for Sustainable Development Manifesto.
Dóra Havas and Richárd Farkas ÖMKi landrace tomato ambassadors (Source: ÖMKi)
ÖMKi’s landrace tomatoes released from gene bank have, with their unique range of flavours, triumphantly conquered the world of gastronomy, and in doing so have paved the way for a new, sustainable spirit in Hungarian gastronomy. Two years ago the Bocuse d’Or winning chef couple Szabina Szulló and Tamás Széll became ambassadors for ÖMKi landrace tomatoes, while this year it was the turn of one of the country’s most popular gastro-bloggers, Dóra Havas – the founder of the Lila Füge brand – who cooks with them in her own kitchen. This year’s Dining Guide Restaurant of the Year Sustainability Prize winner Richárd Farkas, chef at Pajta Bisztró in the Western Hungarian Őrség region, accepted the role of ÖMKi landrace tomato ambassador by adopting forty seedlings.
To crown the 2020 harvest season, and at ÖMKi’s request, these two ambassadors jointly presented the unique gastronomic possibilities inherent in different organic landraces, and at ÖMKi’s suggestion they were the first in Hungary to join a pioneering international initiative. The Chefs for Sustainable Development Manifesto – which in Hungary coordinates with the Felelős Gasztrohős Alapítvány, or Responsible Gastro-Hero Foundation – calls for the worldwide promotion of more sustainable food production. Richárd Farkas explains: “Every landrace offers a unique palette of flavours, and an unfolding world of cooking possibilities. Spread the word to as many people as possible! The commitment to a sustainable approach isn’t just a forward-looking approach: it also helps us to rediscover our forgotten gastronomic treasures.” Dóra Havas adds that “our grandmothers knew exactly what particular vegetable and fruit varieties were best for. It’s vital for us to re-embrace this knowledge, since the key to every outstanding dish is good-quality, well-chosen ingredients.”
In view of this tremendous success, in the spring of 2021 ÖMKi will supply two and a half times this year’s number, with a total of 20,000 seedlings, from different varieties of landrace tomatoes, which anyone interested can pick up from distributors and collection points.
“Pine flowers, pine nuts, goat’s cheese, homemade pumpkin seed granola, smoked venison ham, thyme flower and green tomatoes” – Richárd Farkas reveals the ingredients that, for him, add up to a perfectly balanced, ceviche-style salad which embodies the character of the Őrség region. Another cold dish, which at ÖMKi’s request he and Dóra Havas prepared at the end of August, consists of the following ingredients: “Strained landrace-tomato soup, tomato and melon tartare, home-made pumpkin seed granola, and smoked venison ham.” Among other things, they drew attention as they cooked to the fact that traditional Hungarian tomato varieties have unique flavours, which are wonderfully well adapted to local environmental conditions. These are not only suitable for use in traditional recipes, but can compete with imported ingredients at the highest level, within a new Hungarian gastronomy committed to the principles of sustainability.
Landrace from the Tolna region (Source: ÖMKi)
These landrace tomatoes, which languished in obscurity for decades because they were unsuitable for industrial production, have only recently been rediscovered. At Hungary’s only independent research institute focusing on sustainable agriculture, the staff have been hard at work examining these varieties, with the aim of making the tastiest and most adaptable among them a part of our shared heritage once more. By 2016 a total of 35 landrace tomato varieties had been tested by ÖMKi researchers, first on 28 of their partner farms and then in the gardens of enthusiastic adopters. They were first put on the market in 2018, and this year nearly 9,500 seedlings have found a home. The success of this venture has paved the way for a stronger trend committed to sustainability within Hungarian gastronomy.
The Chef’s Manifesto is an international action plan which summarises in eight points what chefs can do to promote more sustainable food systems in their home countries. The document, first published in English, but translated into Hungarian by the Felelős Gasztrohős Alapítvány, was prepared in collaboration with more than 130 chefs in 38 countries, and based on a summary of best practices. Today, over four hundred chefs have signed up, with Richárd Farkas and Dóra Havas the first to do so in Hungary. “Our goal is to get this manifesto to every chef in Hungary, so that more and more will visit the website and sign up to the movement, which points the way to a healthier and more nutritious future,” says Eszter Szabó, the head of communication at the Felelős Gasztrohős Alapítvány.