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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » December 13, 2015
Polska... tastes good!
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Regional and Traditional Products: Zator Carp
December 13, 2015   
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About 200 metric tons of Zator carp (karp zatorski) are sold in Poland every year. This is the only type of Polish fish so far to have received EU protected designation of origin status. Most of the fish are purchased in December and end up as a dish at a traditional Polish Christmas Eve supper.

The Zator carp is a hybrid of pure Zator carp and pure Hungarian, Yugoslavian, Gołysz (in Poland’s southern Silesia province) and Israeli types of carp. Its distinctive features include a pronouncedly curved back, compact shape and an olive green hue with shades of blue. The meat is free from a muddy smell and has a delicate flavor.

The fish are bred in three neighboring communities (Zator, Przeciszów and Spytkowice) in the western part of Małopolska province, southern Poland. These communities joined forces in 2003 in a project called Carp Valley. The only fish which are released into the local fish ponds are hybrids from the Experimental Fish Facility in Zator. The fish grow to 1.2-1.8 kilograms in weight in organic fish farms, feeding mostly on natural food with a small addition of cereals.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development website, the history of fish ponds in Zator dates back to the 14th century. The most distinctive feature of fish farming in the area was how widespread it was. Fish ponds were set up not just in areas owned by magnates, churches and the king, but were also found on the estates of the nobility from modestly affluent landowners to minor nobles. Some of the most noteworthy fish farming regions included the Duchies of O¶więcim and Zator and the Wieluń Region in the west of present-day Małopolska province. Fish farming thrived during long periods of peace until wars ruined ponds, causing carp breeding in Poland to decline.

Things improved after World War I when fish ponds were restored and Poland imported new technology. New regulations were introduced governing trade by minor fish merchants and the first fish store was opened in Cracow. After World War II the Jagiellonian University established an Institute of Animal Husbandry where research began on enhancing the commercial quality of carp. The market demand for fresh fish drove up production which, thanks to the high number of fish ponds, rose rapidly. The amount of carp produced increased from 200 metric tons in the 1950s to 490 tons in the 1990s.

Today, the Carp Valley has evolved into a recreational area attracting anglers and fans of aquatic sports.

Most work involved in carp farming is done manually, which means that skilled workers with extensive experience are essential. The production process has not changed much over the years, though horse-drawn carts have been replaced by special transportation equipment to make sure that the fish are shipped in better and more comfortable conditions, and aluminum boats are now used instead of wooden ones.
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