Gastrovalocal, in search of the lost vegetable
Gastrovalocal is a project that digs down to the deepest roots of our vegetable gardens to reveal those lost vegetables, cereals or tubers, with the aim of recovering their cultivation and using them in the kitchen. There was a time when certain varieties of tomato, maize, peppers and potatoes were grown in the Basque Country, but for a number of reasons they were no longer planted. Low productivity or sensitivity to pests meant they were almost entirely forgotten. Now, the Gastrovalocal project, which Basque Culinary Center is a part of through BCC Innovation, is trying to recover and reappraise these varieties. They are varieties with gastronomic uses that are representative of the Basque Country’s wealth of vegetables that were highly relevant in past times and which ceased to be cultivated due to different reasons. The yellow pear tomato from Antzuola; the Delika, Txakinarto and Maruri maize varieties, the Miren, Gorbea and Leire potatoes or the Gorostiola and Barrika peppers are some of those varieties that the Gastrovalocal project is trying to recover and bring back to the dishes of Basque gastronomy. Imagine an archaeological excavation where, instead of lost cities, archaeologists were trying to find vegetable varieties from the past, which have all but disappeared from our memory. Broadly speaking, that is the exciting work Gastrovalocal is carrying out. A number of entities are participating in the project, such as Azurmendi, Basque Know How Fundazioa, Makro, farmer Guillermo González (from the Gaztañatxu farmhouse), BCC Innovation (Basque Culinary Center’s Technological Centre specialised in Gastronomy) and NEIKER. The goal is to recover disused tomato, potato, maize and pepper crops, to reintroduce them to the market and promote the creation of new dynamics between local farmers, the HoReCa channel and society. This process helps to prevent genetic erosion, contributes towards crop diversification and fosters employment. The selection of the first varieties to be recovered was carried out based on the gastronomic potential of each one of them and the availability of seeds and tubers in Neiker's germplasm bank, the “Jurassic Park” of Basque agriculture where samples of all these varieties are stored. These are relics of crops that ceased to be cultivated due to lower productivity, high sensitivity to pests or as a result of changes in habits and market demands. A process of gastronomic reappraisal will be carried out within the framework of this project by the Azurmendi restaurant and BCC Innovation, using culinary, traditional and cutting-edge techniques that increase the value of the products derived from their use. To this end, the potential of the different stages of growth of each product will be researched, determining their potential and highlighting the most prominent features. In addition, with the aim of keeping Basque Culinary Center’s principles of sustainability active, the full use of all the different parts of the plants will be sought. The Gastrovalocal initiative seeks to create new value chains between farmers and the HoReCa channel by supporting local and traditional horticultural crops. This project will benefit the market by contributing more varieties, the HoReCa channel by diversifying the gastronomic offer, and consumers thanks to the new culinary experiences these products will offer them. BCC Innovation is a Sectoral Technological Centre specialised in Gastronomy whose mission is to research and to generate knowledge applied to gastronomy and the culinary experience. This knowledge is transferred to haute cuisine professionals, to all those involved in the food value chain and to society as a whole. The creation of new businesses is also among its objectives. The Gastrovalocal initiative is supported by the Basque Government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, EAFRD.