November is the month of pumpkin in Bulgaria and pumpkin cake experiments. The original Tikvenik is among the best things to try in Bulgaria. With this post, I share insights about the most authentic Bulgarian curiosities related to the fruit: the museum devoted to pumpkins and the most known pumpkin cake in Bulgaria – Tikvenik.

3 health benefits of pumpkin

Best Things to Try in Bulgaria pumpkin pie
Pumpkin preparation for the Bulgarian pumpkin pie recipe. ©

Collected huge fruits will be one of the main parts of a daily diet till July: from sweet milk soup to baked pumpkin with meat. So, explore local restaurants as the Bulgarian pumpkin pie is doubtless the best thing to try in Bulgaria.

Before you start trying or cooking the pumpkin cake, first, learn about some unique nutritive values of pumpkin that boast an impressive nutritional profile:

  • Packed with vitamins to boost immunity: Particularly rich in vitamins A, C, and E, pumpkin significantly strengthens the immune system and helps to fight infections.

Pumpkin also contains the antioxidants alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin which protect the cells against damage by free radicals and lower the risk of cancer.

  • Improve eyesight and heart health: According to different studies, pumpkin is comprised of a special nutritional composition that can lower the risk of sight loss.

Additionally, being high in potassium and fiber, regular consumption of pumpkin lowers blood pressure and reduces the risk of strokes – two risk factors for heart disease.

  • Promote healthy skin: Carotenoids, other useful elements of pumpkin, act as a natural sunblock and help to protect skin cells against damage from harmful UV rays. Together with vitamin C, carotenoids produce collagen, a special protein that keeps the skin strong and healthy.

The Museum of Pumpkin in Sevlievo

Best Things to Try in Bulgaria. At a seasonal pumpkin fair
At a seasonal pumpkin fair. ©

In terms of original cultural resources devoted to pumpkins in Bulgaria, the unique Museum of Pumpkin (Sevlievo), launched 10 years ago, presents a great source of learning about the role of this fruit in Bulgarian culture.

Interesting old photos of events dedicated to pumpkins for many decades, awards won in different competitions, pumpkin pie recipes and distinctive artworks are just some of the artifacts of the museum. The spot is definitely among the best things to try in Bulgaria.

Additionally, every October Sevlievo hosts the Pumpkin Festival, the major event devoted to the huge fruit in Bulgaria.

Although other Bulgarian cities usually organize their fairs, pumpkin growers never miss the celebrations in Sevlievo to learn about the recent innovations in growing pumpkins, buy the best seeds, and participate in competitions for the biggest pumpkins.

Pumpkin cake: the authentic Bulgarian recipe

Tikvenik is one of the traditional symbols of Bulgarian cuisine. It is a delicious savory pie made of phyllo pastry sheets and pumpkin sometimes mixed with apples or walnuts. The original Tikvenik is prepared with homemade dough, but it is possible to buy it at the supermarket. In different varieties, the dessert is made for daily meals and holiday dinners almost all year.

Pumpkin pie recipe: traditional Bulgarian dessert Tikvenik + recipe
The Best Things to Try in Bulgaria: My homemade Tikvenik with apples and pumpkin. © Tatyana Garkavaya

Preparation time: 30 min
Cooking time: 40 min
500 gr flour
300 ml warm water
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 teaspoon vinegar
1/3 teaspoon salt
1 medium-size pumpkin
2 green apples
100 gr minced walnuts
3 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 Sift flour into a large flat bowl. Add warm water, salt, vinegar, and oil, and knead a soft dough. Divide it into 5 balls and let them rest for 20 min.
2 Roll out each ball into a thin sheet of filo pastry.
3 Grate pumpkin and apples into a bowl. Put in walnuts and sugar and mix everything.
4 Drizzle some oil on sheets and distribute feeling. Roll each sheet with feeling and place them on a big pan into spirals connecting rolls.
5 Preheat oven to 180-200 and bake for about 40 min. Take it out and dust it with powdered sugar. Serve warm or cold.

Find more ‘Cultural Insights’ in the section Travel Time of this blog and make your list of the best things to try in Bulgaria!

Text and images: Tatyana Garkavaya

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