Preshi i belortasë
The Belortaja leek is an heirloom variety with stabilized traits, and has economic importance for those who grow it. This variety takes its name from the town of Belortaja (or Belorta), which lies on the edge of an agriculturally important plain near the city of Korçë in south-
eastern Albania. This region has a transitional Mediterranean climate with high temperature fluctuations, and is generally cooler than the western part of the country (the plain lies at an elevation of 850 meters above sea level). Local conditions are very suitable for the cultivation of leeks, and the local variety is
known for its excellent flavor. Farmers in Belortaja and many of the surrounding
villages still preserve the old seeds and sow them year after year. The seeds are
planted in trays in the winter and then transplanted into the fields in the spring,
with 30-40 cm between the plants. Weeding is done by hand. Once harvested, 19 the leeks are stored in a cold place.
All parts of the Belortaja leek are edible except the roots. The leeks are used for fresh salads and cooked for casseroles or pies. They are also a main ingredient in various recipes ranging from pork and leek dishes cooked by Orthodox families, to pies and soups. Leek juice is often used by villagers to cure earaches.
One of the most important dishes is a traditional pie prepared with leek, minced meat and rice, named byrek me presh.
The Belortaja leek has long been recognized as a special variety due to its taste, and the town of Belortaja is known more for this product than for any other historical or cultural reason.
The villagers sell the seeds in the surrounding area and the leeks – sold on local markets – provide important economic returns for them, making their cultivation vital for local farmers.
Traditionally, Belortaja leeks have been used for medical purposes; farmers cooked the leeks with some fat to obtain a gel that they used to treat cough and earache.
The future of this crop is endangered because more and more farmers in the area are using new seeds from outside the territory that are considered more resistant to climate change. Also, the abandonment of the village by the youth poses a great risk to traditional small-scale agriculture in general.