Regional cuisine

A visit to the region of Białowieża Forest might become an interesting culinary experience. The character of local cuisine stems from the richness of nature as well as from the region’s historical and cultural background. What is crucial, majority of  food ingredients come from the forest and nearby fields and gardens, and their availability depends on the season. Moreover, local agriculture is still mostly traditional, which means it does not harm nature.

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Early spring is the time when life-reassuring sap starts its circulation, and when the so called “birch juice” (sap in reality) is collected from birch trees. It is valued for its purifying and strengthening properties. When the forest gets green with sprouts and leaves, ramsons appears. Its leaves have a gentle taste of garlic and rich aroma. Young sprouts of nettle are used for flavoury soup, bread spreads and fillings. Sunny yellow flowers of dandelion are made into jams and “dandelion honey” which is a honey-like treat. Blossoming trees and blooming meadows provide abundance of herbs that can be brewed and drunk as tea. Also bees make good use of these plants’ pollen and soon are ready with first kinds of delicious honey.

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Summer lures with the taste of forest berries, among which blueberries are the most plentiful and popular ones. They taste wonderful eaten straight from the bush or as a filling of the local specialty  – dumplings. Wild strawberries, raspberries and, in the orchards, currants, gooseberries and firs apples can be fully enjoyed. And, if the weather is warm and humid enough, first mushrooms – chanterelle, appear and are eagerly collected and added to soup and various kinds of sauce. In summer everybody is looking forward to first home-grown vegetables. Gardens smell with dill and parsley and they seem to overflow with cucumbers, tomatoes, carrot, sweet pea and young beetroot whose leaves are used for soup. Summer is a hectic period of preparing jams, juice and all kinds of pickles for winter.

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Autumn, as the time of plenty, attracts food-lovers with even more delicacies. Orchards bend down under the heavy load of apples, pears and plums. The Forest is full of hazelnuts, lingonberries and, in some places, cranberries. Potatoes, which are here sometimes called the second bread, and which serve as the basis of local cuisine, are dug out and collected in September. The most appreciated are their white varieties which are made into dozens of dishes all year round. Autumn is also the time when tasty mushrooms of different kind can be collected in the forest: boletus, parasol mushroom, saffron milk cap, honey fungus and many others that are available until the first frost creeps in. Mushrooms are considered a delicacy and are eagerly dried and pickled for winter. Autumn is also the time of making sauerkraut that will become one of the basic ingredients of wintertime dishes. 

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Winter, although not  the time of harvest any more , also has its own unique flavours. First of all, these are pickled/sauer cucumbers prepared with oak leaves, garlic, dill and other ingredients, and many a time kept inside a well for freshness and crunchiness. Winter is the time when jars of jam, marmalade, juice and pickles are taken out, leaving pantry shelves more and more empty each day. It is also the best period for drinking hot tea and herbs. Sometimes it is possible to be treated to a cup of tea brewed in a samovar – a traditional Russian utensil used for preparing tea. Hot drinks may be flavoured with some honey, juice or preferably raspberry jam. One more way of getting warmer in winter is sipping some kind of home-made fruit or herb alcohol.

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It should be also mentioned that all year round home-made cottage cheese, butter and fresh milk can be bought here. Significantly, cows are not kept in huge feedlots but graze freely in meadows. Until very recently they were even milked by hand. Similarly, eggs are absolutely organic and come from hens roaming country yards and gardens, and fed with grain and herbs. Not only dairy but also home-made wholemeal bread and yeast buns are simply delicious.

What makes some local dishes special is also the fact that in many homes they are still traditionally prepared on a stove hearth or baked and roasted inside the stove itself. 

If you wish to try traditional countrywide meals, they are available for instances in many guest house.

If, in turn, you wish to taste more elaborate dishes, restaurants might your choice.

If you want to buy some home-grown or made products, you might like to visit the open-air market in Hajnówka or ask in the countryside. Many farmers advertise the sale of honey. To buy milk or eggs you should usually only ask in any village and most probably you will be guided to the right farm. 


Europejski Fundusz Rolny na rzecz Rozwoju Obszarów Wiejskich. Europa inwestująca w obszary wiejskie. Projekt współfinansowany ze środków Unii Europejskiej w ramach osi 4 Leader. Program Rozwoju Obszarów Wiejskich na lata 2007-2013. Projekt zrealizowany przez Stowarzyszenie Metamorphosis. Instytucja zarządzająca Programem Rozwoju Obszarów Wiejskich na lata 2007-13 Minister Rolnictwa i Rozwoju Wsi