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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » June 30, 2011
Polska…tastes good!
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Regional and Traditional Products: Kashubian Strawberries
June 30, 2011   
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The first Polish fruit to enjoy protection under European Union law is the Kashubian strawberry (truskawka kaszubska in Polish, kaszebskô malena in Kashubian). Its name was registered in November 2009 as a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) in the EU.

The Kashubian strawberry comes in different shapes: round-conical or round-kidney shaped. Its longitudinal cross section is heart-shaped, when cut across it is round. The early-harvest fruit is large or medium-sized. The skin color is dark red, consistent across the whole surface, slightly glossy, and the flesh is bright red when cut. The fruit is firm, slightly hard but also juicy. It is covered in a silky, very thin skin on which pips are visible. Kashubian strawberries are sweet and aromatic. Because of the conditions in which they ripen, Kashubian strawberries stand out from varieties grown in other regions due to their higher sugar content. This is the result of the special microclimate of the Kashubian Lake District, and particularly the daily temperature fluctuations—cool nights and scorching days.

Kashubian strawberries are produced in Kartuzy, Ko¶cierzyna and Bytów counties in Pomerania province, and in the communes of Przywidz, Wejherowo, Luzino, Szemud, Linia, Łęczyce and Cewice. Only the following varieties may be sold as Kashubian strawberries: Senga Sengana, Elsanta, Honeoye that have been graded as Extra or Class I.

It is not quite clear how strawberries arrived in Kashubia, but we do know they appeared there in the early 20th century. It is also a fact that the area on which they were grown increased with every year. The taste and popularity of the strawberries led more and more farmers to grow them. Strawberry fields kept expanding for over half a century until they became a permanent part of the Kashubian landscape. It was this proliferation that led the locals to establish and organize the Strawberry Picking Festival. This is an outdoor event held since 1971 on the first Sunday of July on Złota Góra (Golden Hill) near Brodnica Górna. The popularity of the festival is reflected in the number of people who take part in what is the biggest event in the region. Estimates put the number of participants at 30,000 in 2002, growing to about 40,000 in 2004 and 2005. During just one day in 2005, almost 2 metric tons of strawberries were sold at the Strawberry Picking Festival. Many different contests are held during the event, some connected with strawberries, to mention the best strawberry cake contest and a competition for a “strawberry epigram.”

The reputation of the Kashubian strawberry is confirmed by numerous articles and facts demonstrating that it has become a part of the culture and identity of local residents. The local press publishes information about general meetings of the Kashubian Association of Strawberry Growers, about a plan for the association to have a logo featuring Kashubian motifs and so on. The unique character and popularity of the Kashubian strawberry is also reflected in the volume of strawberries grown in the region. There are as many as 1,500 plantations, making this a very important fruit for the regional economy. In particular, it is worth noting the efforts of strawberry growers to unite and act together in matters involving the Kashubian strawberry, including measures to preserve its quality and flavor.

The attitude of buyers (businesses running cold storage facilities and processing plants) also reflects the reputation enjoyed by the Kashubian strawberry, as they set aside reserve capacity to accommodate this fruit, taking into account that it is available later than strawberries from other regions of Poland. This reputation is also confirmed by attempts to market strawberries from other regions, which ripen earlier, as Kashubian strawberries.

The quality of Kashubian strawberries is closely linked to the areas where they are grown. The poor soil and harsh climate of the Kashubian Lake District delays the time of flowering and shortens the growing season. The diverse postglacial land forms with numerous ponds and ribbon lakes are conducive to strawberry growing and facilitate effective watering. Exposure to natural factors, in particular the tough climate, has a positive impact on the formation and ripening of the strawberries, while the very poor soil and unfavorable farming conditions are unsuitable for other crops. The big variations in relative altitude enable strawberries to be grown on slopes exposed to sunlight, ensuring proper ripening of the fruit. All this coupled with slightly acidic soils makes Kashubia the perfect place to grow strawberries.
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