An Indigenous Terra Madre Community: Crimean Tatars

23 Apr 2015



The Crimean mountains are famous for their rich variety of wild plants and medicinal herbs, traditionally used to make teas and balsams. Even today, the Umyt community of Crimean Tatars, whose name means “the hope” in Tatar, still follow ancient traditions, harvesting and drying wild herbs and fruits like thyme, hawthorn, nettle, elder, calendula, St. John’s wort, coltsfoot, oxeye daisy, wormwood, dog-rose petals, rosehips, walnuts, hazelnuts and beechnuts.


Several years ago, a Slow Food Terra Madre community was founded (as a family business), which now brings together 25 people. They have created a cooperative for the shared use of a dryer, a chopper and other equipment. Gathering around 60 different types of wild plant, their most notable products include a wild rose tea and a beverage based on dandelion root and bramble leaf.


Other key elements of Crimean Tatar cuisine include crispy honey baklava, cheburek pasties (pictured) and hot minced kebabs. In different regions of the peninsula, many dishes are prepared in different ways and often have different names. For example, in the north the filled “snail” made of thin dough is prepared with meat and potatoes, and is called burma, while along the south shore, it is filled with pumpkin and nuts, and known as fulto.


As Steppe people (called nogay), being animal breeders and farmers, have always worked hard, their main meal was commonly eaten in the morning; as they did not want to be hungry until sunset. Steppe people eat a lot of meat (especially lamb and beef) and flour products. Vegetables and fruits were always in short supply, so they were not particularly fond of them. The dishes were often accompanied by fermented milk products such as yazma, katyk and syuzma katyk.


The diet of southerners is dominated by a variety of vegetables, cereals and fruits, the most favorite of which are pumpkins and beans. On the southern coast the vegetables are consumed not only fresh, but salted. Tomatoes, eggplants and peppers, mixed with garlic and herbs are left to sour in oak barrels, without adding water.


Due to the geographical position, Central Crimea Tatars (ortaёlak) have united the features of steppe and southern coast cuisine in their kitchens. They love to cook and eat meat products (such as these stuffed pasties with beef), as well as vegetables.


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