Tarnów – the capital of the sub-region, a charming historic city – has shaped its culinary tradition for centuries based on its multiculturalism and location at the intersection of major trade routes. The area's fertile soils, mild terrain, warm climate and agricultural character have provided fresh, natural products, good quality cereals, vegetables and fruit for ages. These are ideal conditions for the development of unique culinary traditions. The gentle hills with a south-facing slope are also a perfect location for viticulture. Wine was produced in the area many centuries ago. The wine-making tradition is being revived, and the villages near Tarnów, with their numerous vineyards, have been nicknamed 'Polish Tuscany’.
We propose to start our journey through the flavours of the Tarnów area in the Dunajec Valley. Here grows the ‘most handsome’ and one of the tastiest and most valuable vegetables – Piękny Jaś from the Dunajec Valley. This local variety of beans has been included on the EU list of regional products. The sizable pods contain a wealth of vitamins and trace elements – lots of easily digestible protein, vitamins B1 and B2, calcium, iron, potassium and folic acid. The species is also distinguished by its high magnesium content due to being grown in mineral-rich alluvial soil. Local housewives can make almost anything from Jasiek, not only the popular soups but also sandwich and toast spreads (e.g., from beans, cottage cheese and butter), pâtés, vegetarian cutlets, roulades, dumplings, desserts and mousses, e.g., with vanilla and coconut, as well as vodka, bean flour and sausages! In the Dunajec Valley, pork casings are stuffed with bean filling, just like the popular potato sausage in the eastern regions is stuffed with potato paste. The bean version tastes delicious, and you can try it at the Zakliczyn Bean Festival – one of the region's oldest annual culinary events. When visiting the Zakliczyn area in the summer, it is worth taking a trip along the trail of bean fields. The views of river meanders and parallel rows of climbing plants wreathed in a gentle mist leave you seeing idyllic, picturesque landscapes when you close your eyes. Jasiek is also the main protagonist of several recipes on the ministerial list of traditional products from Małopolska. Among others, fasolówka, i.e., vodka (50 – 55 %) produced from the seeds of the Piękny Jaś bean, and the 'klęczańska zupa wigilijna' (also known as fasolówka with a plum or plum soup) were entered on the list. This is a clear soup with dried, smoked plums, Piękny Jaś seeds, pieces of carrot and parsley that imparts a sweet and sour taste. On the other hand, 'fizioł' is folk 'comfort food'. A one-pot dish where Piękny Jaś is stewed with bacon, suska sechlońska, i.e., smoked plums with a smoky flavour, sometimes with forest mushrooms added.
Suska sechlońska is not just an accompaniment to beans but is an exquisite heroine of the local table with a remarkable smoky aroma. Although the tradition of its production comes from the borderlands of the Tarnów and Sącz regions, it is impossible not to mention it here. ‘Suska' plum means dried, and it takes its nickname 'Sechlońska' from the village of Sechna. The prune is slow-smoked, sweet, soft inside and wonderfully fragrant. Legend has it that the 'father' of plum brandy was a parish priest, a fruit farmer, who ordered sinners to plant fruit trees as a penance and then ordered the faithful to dry the plums in smoke instead of making plum brandy. Today, more than 600 local smokehouses located around Iwkowa and Laskowa smoke several varieties of plums, including the domestic purple plum and similar types: Nektawit, Promis, Stanley, Tolar or Valjevka are used to produce a delicacy with a unique taste that you absolutely must try!
Only by travelling around Tarnów District and Powiśle Dąbrowskie can you find out the meaning of the funny names koziołek, blachorz, śuśpaj or siuśbak. They are, respectively: delicious horn-shaped biscuits, pancakes baked on a baking tray, local groats with dried fruit, and groats with peas, bacon and meat. The dishes have found their place on the list of traditional products, and their recipes originate from the farms of local peasants whose crops formed the basis of their food. Local culinary traditions are carefully nurtured and passed down from generation to generation. The area’s country housewives' clubs are incredibly active, and it is thanks to them that so many delicacies have made it onto the ministerial list, officially and permanently saving old recipes from oblivion.
Moreover, the Tarnów Region is a land flowing with honey and wine. In the relatively ecologically clean areas, numerous family-run apiaries are busy gathering nectar from the nearby fields and meadows. Travelling through the surrounding municipalities, it is not difficult to stock up on the region's golden treasure – sweet and aromatic honey and bee products. However, the real culinary and tourist treasures are the wines and vineyards. It is here that a large part of the vineyards of the Małopolska Wine Trail are located. A visit to the vineyards is not only an opportunity to taste the outstanding wines complemented by local cheeses and cured meats but, above all, to relax in the bosom of nature, in the shade of the vines with a beautiful view of Pogórze. You can also discover the local vineyards on the website ENOtarnowskie. A bottle of wine will also make a great gift and souvenir of your trip to Małopolska. A visit to Brzesko is also an opportunity to taste beer from the local brewery. The brewery in Okocim has been famous for years. If you want alcohol-free drinks, we suggest blackthorn tea – 'tarninówka’. It is recommended for people who catch colds quickly, or who are over-tired, and for people who are engaged in work that makes heavy use of the intellect. It regulates the metabolism and gastric function and cleanses the body of toxins. Blackthorn is one of the healthiest wild fruits. It has more vitamin C than lemon and is rich in vitamin B and mineral salts – magnesium, calcium, iron, and phosphorus. It can be tasted in many Tarnów restaurants and cafés.
After exciting excursions – it's time to relax. There is no shortage of hospitable agritourism farms, guesthouses and hotels in the region. We particularly recommend the winners of the Tourist Treasures of Małopolska voting contest – the Belle Epoque Restaurant in Zgłobice (Dwór Prezydencki Boutique Hotel and Spa) and the Dobrych Myśli Mountain Hostel in Jamna, with its unique atmosphere and tourist spirit.
For larger organic and fresh local specialities purchases, we recommend the Local Product Centre in Rzuchowa. Here you can also learn the secrets of organic farming.
If you would like to recreate the flavours of Tarnów in your own home, we suggest something traditional with a modern twist – try your hand at cooking:
Salad with Piękny Jaś beans
100 g dry Piękny Jaś beans
1 Łąckie apple
150 g traditional Nowy Sącz bacon
⅓ yellow pepper
⅓ red pepper
2 sticks of celery
1 red onion
2 handfuls of your favourite salad mix
1 chilli pepper
fresh marjoram leaves
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp water
4 tbsp cold-pressed sunflower oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tablespoonful teaspoon of Nowy Sącz honeydew honey
1 clove of garlic
freshly ground coloured pepper
Soak the Piękny Jaś beans overnight. In the morning, pour off the water, add fresh water to the beans, covering the beans, add a teaspoon of salt, bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook the beans until tender (about 1 hour). Mix all the ingredients for the sauce in a bowl. Mixture the lemon juice and water, quarter the apple, remove the core, cut it into thin slices and dip the four slices in the lemon and water mixture (to prevent the apples from turning dark). Slice the onion julienne-style, the peppers into thin strips and the chilli peppers into slices (taking especial care to remove the seeds). Remove the skin from the bacon, cut into 5 mm strips and brown in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Slice the celery, and add it to the other salad ingredients, toss (mix) it, and pour the dressing over the salad. Garnish with marjoram leaves and chilli slices.
The recipe comes from the publication ‘Małopolska do zjedzenia’