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The long journey to recognition for the kindred pumpkin and cucumber

In the 19th century, wine making became unprofitable for farmers in the Retz and Znojmo/Znaim area, while phylloxera (a grapevine pest) also made its inroads. But in the farmers’ gardens, a relative of the pumpkin family, the cucumber, started to bloom. Even though it had been in the area for 300 years, it almost never made its way to the dining table, as its taste was considered too bland. The situation changed in 1802, as the princely valet Alexander Lutz brought cucumber seeds from the Orient. These were crossbred with a Hungarian cucumber seed, and a savoury variety was the consequence, which also brought new business opportunities to the local farmers.

Thanks to a new railway connection, the ‘Retzer Salzgurken’ (Retz savoury cucumbers) and the ‘Znaimer Gurken’ (Znaim cucumbers) could be delivered to the weekly markets in the cities. But the closure of the border for export by the new state of Czechoslovakia spelled the end of the famous cucumbers from Znojmo/Znaim in 1918.

Sixty years later, the time of the pumpkin arrived: it was unpretentious, and it loved the warm climate and the proximity to wine, potatoes, and beets – thus ideally suited for the region of Retzbach. In the modern age, the pumpkin came to Europe, and in the 18th century it came to Austria. Initially it was fed to cattle, and for a long time it had the reputation for being a ‘poor person’s food’. By the end of the 20th century, it came to be the trademark of the Retz region, and the pumpkin festival is now a classic.

Today the pumpkin is a mainstay in the fine cooking of restaurants and wineries has also evolved into a delicatessen of the Retz region.

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