A group of farmers and growers have set themselves the goal of maintaining the culinary heritage of their homeland.
The production conditions are hard: harvesting with calloused hands, donkeys rather than trucks, and long journeys on foot. But the effort is worth it: the triumphant march of traditional Alpine cuisine is unstoppable.
But why go to all that effort? Because uniquely flavorful products have to be produced sustainably. That applies to edible as well as luxury items: they are not available in unlimited quantities. And in most cases, not all year round. One thing unites all these traditionalists: their way of working takes time. So the result should also be enjoyed at leisure – in Alpine cuisine, “slow food” applies for the chef and the diner!
Tradition and innovation have been influencing each other since time immemorial.
This is also the case for the rediscovery of edible wild plants. The post-war generation did not appreciate wild garlic or leaf spinach salad. It used to be considered “poor people’s food.” Nowadays, top chefs are making use of those plants again. Wild herbs have also been rediscovered as flavorsome ingredients. No one is more aware of that than herb sommelier Tina Hauser. The Swiss native mixes fennel seeds, cinnamon sticks, anise, and other ingredients to make the sweet spice seasoning Magenträs.
To see in the picture: The ingredients of Magenträs.
Blaz Zidaric is devoted to an entirely different specialty.
On his Slovenian fish farm, the veterinarian and expert fish farmer rears marble trout, a species that was nearing extinction and is best prepared in buckwheat flour.
To see in the picture: Marmorata trout from Slovenia.
The Styrian beekeeper Johannes Gruber produces extremely rare buckwheat honey.
In the process, he continues an age-old tradition – migratory beekeeping. He chooses the location of his beehives depending on flowering periods and changes it accordingly. Buckwheat is now only grown in large quantities in the Alps in rare cases. The plant, which is related to rhubarb, needs a lot of care, but produces small harvests. However, from high summer to fall, buckwheat provides an intense and powerful honey.
To see in the picture: Very rare and highly sought-after: buckwheat honey from East Styria.
The creators of these regional delights are free spirits who have devoted themselves to one thing: traditional agriculture.
More profit could be made in no time with large, modern machines and industrial seeds.
But farmer Marcel Heinrich adheres to the working techniques of his forefathers. Potatoes grow in sandy ground on his mountain farm. The varieties have names like Parli, Roosevelt, and Corne de Gatte and little in common with regular potatoes. They are old varieties that date back centuries. Some are so small that they can only be harvested by hand. But Marcel Heinrich puts his faith in values rather than economic growth – and in the sophisticated, nutty flavor of the high-quality tubers.
To see in the picture: Different varieties of mountain potato.
Hansi Baumgartner, the star chef from South Tyrol, also makes use of old traditions.
As an affineur, he perfects the flavors of the best unpasteurized cheeses in the Alpine region. His creative finishing techniques have their roots in traditional preservation methods.The aromas of the meadows and mountain pastures are combined in the flavor of his hay cheese made of goat milk. In the hard cheese Urtikas, on the other hand, nettles serve as a natural packaging material. Tradition and innovation have been influencing each other since time immemorial.
To see in the picture: A finishing technique with wild herbs.
Photography | Sylvan Müller