Znojmo cucumbers ( Znojemské okurky in Czech ) are the most prominent agricultural product from the Czech (South Moravian) town of Znojmo (Znaim) and its surroundings. Various varieties were marketed under the term “ Znojmo cucumbers ”, popularly known as Umurken . Similar to a trade mark, the designation mainly concerned the region of origin.
The cultivation of cucumbers has been known since Charlemagne , but it decreased drastically in the Middle Ages. It was not until Emperor Charles V that the extension was again ordered. His advisors saw in these vegetables a protection and remedy against the plague .
The Premonstratensian Monastery of Klosterbruck is repeatedly associated with the introduction of the cucumber as a field crop in the Znaim area . The abbot of the Premonstratensian canon monastery Sebastian Pátek z Čepiroh (Freytag von Čepirohy ) from the 16th century, who is said to have propagated it as a remedy against the plague, is specifically mentioned . In 1572 he supposedly had the seed brought from Hungary and is said to have promoted its cultivation on the Thaya soil near Znojmo. However, there is no documentary evidence of this connection between Klosterbruck Abbey and cucumber cultivation.
Mainly because of their taste, however, they did not prevail. Only a few gardens continued to cultivate them. In 1802, the royal valet Alexander Lutz , who came from the neighboring village of Esseklee (Nesahleby), brought cucumber seeds with him from the Orient. By crossing these cucumbers with those originally from Hungary, further cultivation of the variety resulted in tasty fruits, which later became a global success together with further processing, without forming a uniform variety.
Around 1850 various circumstances came together that favored the economic rise of the Znojmo gherkins. A grapevine disease led to a decline in viticulture in the region, and declining financial returns from growing cereals forced farmers to seek alternatives. At the same time, the first approaches to industrial cucumber processing developed in Znojmo, with a corresponding demand for cucumbers. As early as 1870, when Znojmo was connected to the railway network, cucumbers were an important source of income for up to 10,000 farming families, around 200 traders and around 1000 employees from around 100 cucumber pickling plants in the Znojmo area.
The end of the Znojmo cucumber began shortly after the establishment of Czechoslovakia after the end of the Danube Monarchy . Between 1918 and 1920 the new state closed its borders to all exports. Wholesalers also pushed cucumber prices down. Under the pressure of economic necessity, numerous farmers turned away from growing cucumbers and turned to growing tomatoes and vegetables, as well as growing more grain and planting new vineyards.
It is true that the situation of the farmers who cultivated cucumbers improved under the rule of the National Socialists, who ensured good prices and reliable purchase. However, the numerous Jewish owners of cucumber-processing companies in Znojmo were prevented from continuing their operations.
With the expulsion of the German-speaking population from Czechoslovakia after the Second World War, not only was the farmers' knowledge of the cultivation of regional cucumber varieties under the given local climate and soil conditions lost, but the well-guarded and successful recipes of the individual cucumber users were also the responsibility of the new people no longer available in the factories. The cucumber varieties known under the collective term " Znojmo cucumber " are now considered extinct.
The Znojmo cucumbers were processed in three basic types, namely as
- Pickled cucumbers and as
- Pickled cucumbers that have been put in vinegar after lactic acid fermentation.
The respective recipes varied between the different manufacturers and were also adapted by them to the preferences of the respective buyer countries, especially for export goods.
Around 1925 there were over 60 canning factories in Znojmo for processing the so-called Znojmo cucumbers, from which the cucumbers were also exported to America. Originally the cucumbers were sold and transported in barrels. However, this type of transportation was cumbersome and impractical. The Znojmo cucumber depositor SM Zeisel finally introduced the cucumber jars ("cucumber bottles") with five, two and one liter contents.
The first violent changes in the ownership structure of these companies were brought about by the National Socialists with their rigorous anti-Semitic stance. For example, Herbert Felix von Löw & Felix , a partner in the cucumber processing company founded in 1868, had to flee to Sweden. First he set up a processing plant for cucumbers with AB Felix and later came to Austria, where he founded Felix Austria in Mattersburg .
The Frey family from Znojmo came to Vienna as the population of German origin was expelled from the Czech Republic. After the loss of the " Znojmo canning factory ", which had been in the family for at least six generations , they set up the Frey Delikatessen company in Vienna's 21st district of Floridsdorf .
At present, besides small private processors , the company Znojmia sro - since 2003 a subsidiary of Hamé sro - and Znojemská okurka seem to be the only cucumber processing companies still active in Znojmo.
The association Znojemská Beseda is every August the cucumbers week with competitions for the best recipes for pickles, cucumbers tastings, but also organizes a cultural program.
With the increasing success of the cucumber industry, a corresponding supplier industry also developed, which also created numerous jobs, as the canning companies needed large quantities of vinegar, barrels, boxes and later also glasses, but also herbs such as dill.
By adding the addition “ Znaimer ” to the names of various dishes such as goulash or roast beef, only the fact was expressed that these dishes were given a special flavor note by adding cucumbers and not their regional origin. ( Znojmo goulash , Znojmo roast , Znojmo chop , Znojmo bark chips )
The oval stamp showed a cucumber with a leaf tendril as well as two flowers and two oak leaves. The words " Pumlitz " and " Gemeindeamt " were to be read as transcription . Pumlitz was the only parish of the Thayaboden, which raised the Znojmo gherkins to their community symbol.
Cucumbers were a common motif on postcards of Znojmo together with various cityscapes.
- Hans Zuckriegl: Die Znaimer Gurke - From warty, clumsy and bunkered poor people's food to the world-famous folk delicacy , self-published, 1990
- Anton Vrbka: Memorial book of the city of Znojmo 1226 - 1926. Cultural-historical pictures from this time . A. Bartosch Verlag, Nikolsburg, 1927
- Joseph Friedrich Zawodny: The Znaimer Gurke - A Study , HH Hitschmann, Archive for Agriculture, Vienna, 1896
- The vegetable queen ( Memento from May 20, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
- Znojemská okurka, družstvo (Czech)
- Secret of Wine ( Memento from August 23, 2007 in the web archive archive.today )
- Hellmut Bornemann: 800 years of Klosterbruck Abbey , publishing house of the South Moravian Landscape Council, Geislingen an der Steige, 1990 (page 77).
- Anton Vrbka: Memorial Book of the City of Znojmo .
- Company of Felix Austria accessed on April 18, 2010.
- Frey ( Memento from July 31, 2012 in the web archive archive.today )
- Chronicle of the Frey Delikatessen company , accessed on April 18, 2010.
- The vegetable queen ( Memento from May 20, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
- Event calendar ( Memento from February 10, 2013 in the web archive archive.today )