The Magnificent Three

This year, the Balkans and Turkey will be represented at the Salone del Gusto by a large exhibition area. Along with many of the communities and Presidia who over the years have joined the Slow Food network, this year the Salone also welcomes three new Presidia: Bukovo Pepper (Macedonia), Gledić Crvena Ranka Plum Rakija (Serbia) and Përmet Gliko (Albania). Three different stories, linked by one guiding thread: the desire of local communities to focus on their own resources, starting with typical foods, in order to build a sustainable future.

Gledić Crvena Ranka plum rakija, for example, is a type of brandy made in the heart of Šumadija, long known for the quality of its plums. Even though the Gledić mountain is a little corner of paradise, many of the houses here have been abandoned. However, a group of small-scale producers has realized that the artisanal production of rakija, based on centuries of tradition, represents a real treasure. They believe the spirit could become a driving force for economic, social and cultural development, if properly promoted on the market. Together they have established a Presidium that unites 35 Gledić rakija producers and distillers. Their aim is to revive production and promote the local area, including through responsible rural tourism, currently in vogue in the Balkans.

Tourism has long been a focus for the community in the upper valley of the River Vjosa, in southern Albania. This area of great charm and beauty is famous for its woods, canyons, ancient Ottoman bridges and Orthodox monasteries. Përmet is also home to forgotten gastronomic treasures, like gliko: a preserve of whole fruits or vegetables, made from local varieties of produce grown by the valley’s many small-scale farmers. Started only a few months ago, the Presidium will work to make Përmet gliko a resource for the development of the local economy and also to identify all the local varieties that make this product unique. To do this, Slow Food will be working in collaboration with the local authorities, the NGO Cesvi and the local convivium.

Indeed, Presidia are often started thanks to the commitment and dedication of our members. This is the case with Slow Food Bitola, in Macedonia, which since it was founded has been working to promote the Bukovo pepper. Bukovo is a small village so famous for the production of ground pepper that still today the term bukovec refers generically to any dried pepper that is ground and used as a spice. Despite this, the local community has been unable to turn their product into a real economic and social resource. Growing peppers in the highlands around Bukovo is less profitable than growing them in the lowlands. And being unable to distinguish their product on their market makes them uncompetitive. This is why the Presidium was started: to help the producers to select their seeds and maintain the purity of the variety, to promote this extraordinary variety and to reduce the risk of expropriation and loss of identity currently threatening its future.

These three stories of community, resistance and culinary excellence will interweave with the stories of the many food communities and Presidia from the region who will be present at the Salone del Gusto. The public can meet the communities and sample their products not only at the dedicated stands in the Oval pavilion, but also during the conference “A Journey Through the Balkans and Turkey” on Sunday 26 October at 11.30, in the Slow Food Foundation conference room.


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