Recently, increasingly more people are becoming aware of the importance of locally produced food. For this reason, on the initiative of the Lovrenc Tourist Association, the locals of Raka have launched a project entitled "Best of Raka". The project aims to awaken and add interest in the onion from Raka, which in the past was grown in large quantities and was widely acclaimed. Now, the onion is grown for private consumption only, merely by those who have preserved the seeds, or those who still grow bulbs for planting. Many who have tried the onion from Raka say there is something special about it.
Mr Alojz Kerin, who is the president of the Lovrenc Tourist Association, expressed his opinion on the project: "Firstly, we wish to grow such onion as it was once grown here in Raka. By this I mean the onion which has unique characteristics and a distinctive shape given by the solid soil of Raka. Secondly, we wish to increase the growth of the onion in Raka, and also encourage the production of other local goods."
It is said that also the famous Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa fully appreciated onion. Decades ago, the Ulčnik family from Raka grew up to 50 tonnes of onion a year; now, they grow it for private consumption only. However, in the past the family existed on growing onion, and it was them who started to cultivate this particular breed of onion decades ago. According to Mr Franc Ulčnik, it was his father who cross-bred two breeds of onion and obtained the onion with outstanding characteristics. Mr Ulčnik says: "He cross-bred the Egyptian red onion with the onion from Ptuj, and got this breed, which was most famous and appreciated in Raka. He grew approximately 50 tonnes of the onion yearly. He produced his own seeds and as much as approximately 2 tonnes of his own bulbs."
Members of the Lovrenc Tourist Association want the onion from Raka to acquire a reputation it had in the past, and to be grown again. In order to achieve their wish, the Association has set up the project "Best of Raka" in cooperation with the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Tourism Krško, the company Seles, and the Association for Sustainable Development Terra Vera. The project is worth less than €50,000. In accordance with the tender by the Posavje Local Initiative Group (LAS), 85% of the funds will be obtained from LEADER, the European initiative aimed at supporting development of rural areas. In the first stage of the project, which was conceived in March this year, various workshops on the onion from Raka and a study tour were organized.
Moreover, the Association also plans to provide space for exhibitions and culinary workshops. Besides the Lovrenc Tourist Association, several other associations and local people from the catering industry also support the project. At the Tratnik Inn, a wide range of dishes is prepared with the onion from Raka; still, they are looking for new recipes and ideas. Mr Robert Tratnik says that this onion tastes sweeter and dissolves completely when cooked. This is what makes dishes tastier. At his inn, they prepare: "Dishes ranging from onion chuck steaks and bean stews to goulash. Onion is the basic ingredient used for making all kinds of sauces, and is also used for cooking chopped livers. We also prepare pizzas with onion topping. At our inn, fresh ideas emerge every day."
The project also aims at the promotion of the trademark "Best of Raka" so that Raka would become more recognisable in respect of tourism and gastronomy, and would consequently draw more tourists. Furthermore, the project is intended to attract other local food producers.
Goran Rovan, translated by D. M.