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Oct 15, 2018

The flavours from the homeland of Templars

The TNC project Rural Flavours is aimed at the exchange of experiences between partner-action groups on the use of local flavours, food and craft. The project's first workgroup meeting and experience exchange took place at the end of September 2018 in Portugal, 160 km from the capital Lisbon, in Torres Novos village. Local LEADER LAG covers six ancient fortresses of Templars, which only began to be used on tourism purposes about twenty years ago, during the very first LEADER period in Portugal. For this, LAG even created its own tourism company, to develop tourism packages and organise its own study tours for LEADER group. When I asked, how this kind of enterprise is fitting with a rule of equal treatment of companies, my colleague Jorge Rodriguez answered: "Thirty years ago, local tourism was not developed at all, nobody was dealing with it. Of course, we follow rules and take three offers when it comes to our own trips. The idea is to sell the tourist company now, to be more transparent". In the area of the LAG, there are now several festivals to invite tourist during the whole year. The most famous of them is the Festival of Dried Food, which will last for two weeks in the end of September.

The local partner of the project, ADIRN, implementing the EU LEADER measure, invited the rest of six LAGs to take part in this festival. We found that for the festival there was a huge market hall built in the middle of the city square, which also covered the trees that were growing there. There were a lot of food offers in the market, mainly dried fruits, honey and jam, but also handicrafts. In the evening of opening the festival, a celebration in the city lasted to the early hours of the next day, which showed that the people were looking forward for the event.

The area for project partners was set up outside the hall. We were warned by Jorge to take out national flags with us, to make our area more visible and recognizable, as the National television broadcasted the whole event. The task of the Hiiumaa delegation was to sell the samples of dry food we took with us: Hiiu Pagar seed candy and garlic bread, Hiid nettle nougats and powder for smoothies, goat cheese from Lepanina Farm and dry meat from Pilderi small meat factory. Partners from several countries presented the following: Finland came with beautiful silver jewellery and wool products; Croatian introduced olive oil, mushroom preserves, cheeses, and made a traditional cheesecake on open fire; The Spaniards presented fresh fruit packed in a plastic; The Cypriots brought honey, sweets and showed the process of pastry cooking on spot. Naturally, Portugal's counter was the most extensive and it contained local flavours in the form of honey, oil, wine and dried fruit.

Of course, the question arises as to how our flavours fit the local tastes? The answer is that people were curious. The sweet seed candy was the most suitable for locals. Although the flavour of garlic was a known, nobody had seen the black bread before. The nettle powder is novel product that needs to be introduced anyway; cheese and beef were familiar tastes. The new experience for us was that the best sales time was late at night just before midnight.

The day after the fair, we were introduced with the region's projects: a wine farm where the wine of the Templar valleys is made; a blue berry grower who also produces jams and a stylish restaurant built with the support of LEADER in the ancient Templar castle.

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