Slow Food Presidia
In our Slow Food Travel region, the first presidio in Carinthia, the Lesachtal Bread, was recognised by Slow Food International as a craft and food worthy of protection. In 2022 the "Kletzenbirne" pear could establish itself as a new cross-border Slow Food Presidio.
Slow Food Presidio "Lesachtal Bread"
The "Lesachtal Bread" was the first Carinthian food to be awarded the "Presidio seal" by Slow Food International in September 2018. During the TERRA MADRA - SALONE DEL GUSTO in Turin, Lesachtal Bread was awarded the PERSIDIO SEAL and thus the distinction "particularly worthy of protection".
Kletzenbirne pear –the first cross-border Slow Food Presidio in the world
Three countries, one initiative: Carinthia, Friuli and Slovenia make the Kletzenbirne pear the new cross-border Slow Food Presidio. Formerly a fixed component of the meadow orchards in the Alpine-Adriatic triangle, the Kletzenbirne pear is the focus of the project for the preservation of culinary identity, craftsmanship and biodiversity of this region.
The initiators in Carinthia
The Gailtal Valley in the south of Carinthia, the Carnic region in Friuli, Italy, and the Soča Valley in neighbouring Slovenia are the central zone of the Kletzenbirne pear. For centuries, this small, tannin-rich fruit has been cultivated in the meadow orchards and is known as "Kletzen", "Clôze" or also "Kloatschen". In the days of the Danube Monarchy, the meadow orchards even produced fruit for the Viennese markets, but today these small-scale farmland areas, which can only be worked by hand, are increasingly disappearing from the landscape. And with them, the impressive Kletzenbirne pear trees.
20 pear varieties
According to Philipp Bodner's research at the BOKU (University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences), Vienna, about 20 pear varieties are processed as Kletzen pears, mainly the red Pichl pear, the Speck pear and the Wein pear. However, processing is time-consuming. Leopold Feichtinger, organic farmer from the Gailtal Valley and initiator of the first cross-border Slow Food Presidio, explains the traditional procedure: "The pears cannot be picked from the high trunk trees like eating pears. If you want to process them, then you have to wait until they fall from the tree and collect them bit by bit." Then follows a post-ripening to a stage that is called "mohle" in Carinthia: still compact on the outside, but mushy on the inside. The fruits ripened in this way are not suitable for consumption or further storage like dessert pears; they are mashed and distilled, but mostly dried.
In the last centuries, pears were carefully dried in many different ways - always whole, in attics on boxes or grids, in the Gailtal Valley mostly directly in the kitchen, using the residual heat in the tiled stove after baking bread. The dried fruits served as a "sugar supply" in winter. They were and are eaten directly or used as an ingredient in a variety of recipes. The best-known dish is probably "Kletzennudeln", which can also be found across the borders: in Friuli as sweet "cjarsons", a kind of ravioli, in the Soça Valley as "Bovški krafi". But Kletzen bread, liqueur, Kletzen puree and even flour for further processing were produced too.
Revitalisation of the old trees
There are several reasons why Kletzen pear trees are still chopped down. The overripe pears lying in the grass are a nuisance to many orchard owners, while pear wood is a sought-after raw material. The population is also threatened by the ageing of the trees, a large part of which are between 100 and 150 years old. "Around 100 trees have been reported so far, and where there used to be several Kletzen pear trees per farm, today there is usually only one," Philipp Bodner reports from his surveys. The steps that are now being taken are the re-growing of the varieties in the nursery, the creation of variety gardens and also the revitalisation of the old trees through targeted pruning.
Leopold Feichtinger likes to talk about his work with the Kletzen pear and the orchards at his Slow Food Travel workshops, but he also provides an insight into how to make organic sheep's milk specialities. Versatility brings variety and is good for body and soul.
"With the new Presidio, we want to try to reverse this process," says Leopold Feichtinger, organic farmer from the Gailtal Valley and spokesperson for the cross-border initiative. The construction of a drying plant, or even a contract drying plant, is also being considered, which would create new income from the Kletzen pears. "We want to create awareness for this product," says Leopold Feichtinger. "The Presidio is open to new producers." Anyone who meets the production requirements can come forward, he says. "The more people join, the higher the success rate."