Krakow’s market is a window into the region’s rural culture

When trying to analyse Krakow’s (and Poland’s) gastronomic heritage, always a question of sources available comes into play. In Poland, the research on the gastronomic culture heritage is carried out only by a few people, and it is a relatively new object of historic research; to date, no one has conducted detailed studies on gastronomic culture heritage of Krakow. We have no Medieval or Renaissance Polish cookbooks, and we can only guess what dishes were prepared on the basis of ingredients available in Krakow. And the information on these ingredients usually comes from accounting books, city price lists, guild documents, or archaeological and botanical research, which supplements our knowledge. Small pieces of information can also be found in accounts written by the visitors to the Polish capital at that time. Other sources of knowledge include literature of the period and descriptions of Krakow’s Market Square and the goods sold there.

Desk research in Kraków had to involve more scientific methods to get a full picture: query of historical sources, query of visual materials to be used under the Creative Commons licence, and interviews with selected residents of Krakow concerning their family culinary traditions. In the outcome, an in-depth analysis was prepared presenting traces of gastronomic heritage from the Middle Ages up to modern times.

The OscypeK cheese

 Oscypek has been produced in the Tatra mountains since the fourteenth century, when farmers from the southern Romanian province of Walachia imported dairy farming to the Polish part of the Carpathians. Oscypek is a sheep’s milk cheese made from the milk of Zackel sheep, a Hungarian breed that has acclimated perfectly over the past three or four centuries. The cheese is produced by the shepherds themselves in rudimentary—but rigorously clean—huts. In the huts or bacowka, a fire is always lit; it is used for the cheesemaking and for smoking the finished cheeses that are hung from the rafters. 

Krakow Earth Market – Targ Pietruszkowy

Krakow, Poland’s second-largest city with around 750,000 inhabitants, is home to the Targ Pietruszkowy (“parsley market”) farmers’ market. Located in the south of the country, in the Małopolska region, the city is one of Poland’s top tourist destinations, but most of the market’s customers are locals from Krakow and nearby towns and villages.

The Targ Pietruszkowy agricultural market was started in June 2013 thanks to the hard work of some young people from the community in the Podgórze district who wanted to meet the needs of citizens interested in finding local producers of healthy and sustainable food. Every Saturday, a few dozen small-scale producers (between 40 and 80) participate in the market. The products sold in the Krakow Earth Market – Targ Pietruszkowy are local. They must come from within a 150-kilometer radius of Krakow, which means they are also fresh and seasonal. And the customers know that with their shopping, they are supporting the agricultural communities in the Małopolska region.

The products are all sold directly by the producers, whose farms must be no bigger than 15 hectares and cultivated in a diversified way. The farmers who participate can get a fair price for their hard work, without further intermediate steps between producer and buyer, and can also meet consumers in person, allowing a useful exchange of knowledge.