This post with a map of 10 Pomorie groceries offers insights into the role of tomatoes in Bulgarian cuisine, practical suggestions for different dishes, and useful tips about how to buy the best tomatoes at bargain prices. A bonus – the recipe of the traditional Bulgarian beans with tomato stew!
Vegetables at 0.5 euro =1 lev/kg all seasons
Sometimes a so-called sustainable choice is so affordable that it’s shameful to make because it implies buying things intended for low-income consumers. Cut-price vegetables at 0.5 euro/kg in such places as Pomorie, a Bulgarian SPA resort, is a case in point. But if you think beyond stereotypes and start buying tomatoes intended for different social groups, you learn lots of new things about Bulgarian culture and food heritage.
The end of autumn is the high season for cheap vegetables in Pomorie. Imported beautiful tomatoes from Albania, Greece, and Turkey compete with the local produce of the very last harvest.
Another seasonal feature is the off-putting price of the iconic Bulgarian tomato varieties pink ‘Mechta’ and ‘Serdce’ of almost 6 lv/kg, three times more expensive than imported vegetables.
The seasonal diversity provokes a surplus of tomatoes that quickly go bad because there are no tourists or main consumers, and locals seek only certain types of vegetables.
As a result, the most unappealing vegetables end up in second-hand boxes with tablets ‘Marked-down vegetables and fruit’. Everything is at 1 lv/kg or so. Tomatoes are the most popular veggies and are always sold out first.
Usually, cheap tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, mushrooms, etc. are intended for low-income consumers. But many Pomorie sellers admit that in fact locals of all categories like to buy Bulgarian vegetables even from the 1-lev boxes, especially in autumn and winter, when normal prices soar.
The secret of Bulgarian tomatoes
‘While foreigners buy 1-2 tomatoes a day, Bulgarians purchase several kilograms because we put tomatoes almost in every dish. In contrast to Bulgarian consumers, foreign customers largely prefer fruits to vegetables’, – explains the tastes of the clients Toni Taliterva, the owner of a Pomorie grocery Toni and a third-generation vegetable farmer.
Interestingly, Bulgarians unanimously opt for endemic pink tomato varieties (the average weight of one piece is 300-500 gr), Russian and German find them ugly though. They prefer imported tomatoes of the same shape and without any blemishes.
In contrast to imported vegetables, the varieties grown in Bulgaria have better taste and nutritional qualities. They developed specifically for the local climate and soil and, thus, transmit their benefits.
When used for cooking, Bulgarian tomatoes transform their dense structure into a savory sauce and enrich the dishes with sweet and juicy flavors. That sauce is the main feature of Bulgarian cuisine.
In contrast, Greek tomatoes, grown in different conditions, don’t change either their shape or taste in the process of preparation.
It limits their use by Bulgarians for whom the importance of maintaining culinary traditions is synonymous with well-being. And people daily reaffirm seasonally adjusted diets.
The truth behind the promotional tablets
In contrast to most Pomorie groceries, ‘Toni’ doesn’t have any tablets that categorize the cut-down produce, only regular small sticks with prices on the containers.
‘For me, to put such notes, means to mislead people and question the quality of my produce, – admits Toni. – It’s never been customary in Bulgaria to put any type of promotions on vegetables; it came from the retail. For us, when you promote something this way, you want to delude people and challenge the clear categorization system of quality to which everyone is accustomed’.
In Bulgaria, the categorization of quality – from the extra to the third quality – is applied to all goods. And sometimes controlling institutions demand to remove the misleading tablets because they don’t reflect any existent category.
Bulgarians are aware of the categorization system. For foreigners, in contrast, the numerous boxes of different tomatoes look confusing.
Naturally, aesthetic perception guides newcomers’ shopping in Bulgaria. People find the beautiful more comforting, while the ugly suspicious. It, in turn, deprives them of experiencing authentic Bulgarian culture.
With this specially created map of the best Pomorie groceries, find more places where you can make alternative choices and try authentic Bulgarian products at affordable prices.
Bulgarian beans with tomatoes stew
400 g dry white beans
5 tsp oil
2-3 dried red peppers
1 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried mint
Salt, black pepper
1 Soak the beans in cold water for 2-5 hours.
2 Change the water, put them in a pot, and boil them for about 2 hours.
3 Remove foam regularly.
4 At the end of the cooking, add salt.
5 Rinse the boiled beans in a colander.
6 Transfer them to a deep ceramic baking dish.
7 In another pot, cook the finely chopped carrot and onion for 10 minutes.
8 Stir and in 30 seconds add the grated tomato and the tomato paste diluted with a little water.
9 Spice up with dried mint, black pepper and paprika.
10 Mix the vegetable sauce and pour it into the boiled beans.
11 Bake the bean stew at 180°C for about 40 minutes until they have a nice golden crust.
12 Optionally, garnish the dish with smoked sausages.
Find more ‘Cultural Insights’ in the section Places of this blog.
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