A Taste of Macedonia

 

When I noticed someone in Macedonia was reading my blog, it occurred to me that food is the easiest way to appreciate a different culture. So I looked up ‘My Macedonian Kitchen’ and prepared some Tavče Gravče.
When I lived in London I saw the Macedonian pine, Pinus peuce, an endemic conifer, growing in the arboretum at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. It’s beautiful, but somewhat slow growing, so it needs a good garden where it can gradually mature.

But anyone can enjoy Tavče Gravče. It’s a delicious stew, rich in lycopene. Black pepper and hot chilli help make it a warming dish, ideal for a Brisbane winter. I added leeks, a recommendation by Jessica, the author of the Tavče Gravče recipe on her blog called ‘My Macedonian Kitchen’.

Paprika enhanced the flavour, but the ingredient that really made this dish so flavoursome was cumin seed. I highly recommend including cumin seed to her really tasty recipe.

Macedonian protected flora: Astragalus mayeri & Campanula formanekiana, first day cover, 1999.

Another Macedonian connection is in my stamp collection. I have two first day covers, with stamps issued in 1999, commemorating protected endemic plants.

One stamp illustrates the Macedonian bellflower. Stewart Mitchell, of the Scottish Rock Garden Club, wrote in 1957 of it:

Macedonian protected flora: Crocus scardicus & Viola kosanini, first day cover, 1999.

“…before coming to the true perennials, there are a number of monocarpic species. As with biennials, a basal rosette is formed in their first year with production of flowers is deferred until a later season, which may be the following one, or additional rosettes may be formed instead. The Macedonian bellflower is a delightful representative of this class. It grows in rocky (alkaline) places in nature and I find a wall an ideal place for it, with its long root into good soil. Its rosettes are attractive themselves, being grey and crinkled and of regular shape. From these rise sturdy stems…carrying Canterbury bell flowers in the leaf axils. The flowers are generally a good solid white but pink and blue tints are said to occur.

After setting seed the plants die, and the wait begins for the next generation to germinate.

Right now in my winter garden, the ‘Johnny Jump Up’ (Viola tricolor) are blooming, looking their best where they have grown up amongst the support provided by my pineapple plants.

Johnny Jump It is a cousin of Viola kosaninii, from Macedonia. This Viola is described by McPavlis, in the International Rock Gardener:

Viola kosaninii was reported by V. Stevanović & Kit Tan in 2000 as also being found from northern Greece which represents the southernmost limit of its range. It is a rare tertiary relict plant, extremely rare in cultivation.”

Another stamp depicts a yellow flowered alpine, Crocus scardicus, a species from Macedonia and Albania. The International Rock Gardener says of it:

“This species occupies a high, alpine habitat where summer is short, damp and cool, while winter may involve as much as six months snow cover. The cultivation of these species is therefore a challenge in areas which suit many other Crocus species which enjoy a warm, dry summer rest. Crocus scardicus is grown outside successfully in some parts of Scotland where the summer is cooler and shorter than the southern UK”.

The International Rock Gardener is a beautifully illustrated on line resource, it was lovely reading their notes about the cultivation of these montane Macedonian plants.

Jerry Coleby-Williams

21st July 2012