In the Capitol, Ljubljana, a vibrant farmer’s market is operating every day of the week except Sundays. Located in the heart of the old town, green grocers, local farmers and townspeople sell their wares. What is in season, blooming, budding, or for picking is available at the market. The best market day is Saturday, when many extra activities go on in the market, such as baking bread, more merchants, music and flowers galore. On our Taste of Slovenia tour, we tour the market with renowned traditional foods expert, Dr. Janez Bogataj on Saturday for tastings and meeting farmers and artisans.
During the six years I lived in Slovenia I learned to appreciate quality of life. A large part of that involves the availability of homemade and local foods. Slovenians are no strangers to raw and fermented foods. In the fall market raw lacto-fermentcd sauerkraut and its juice, and pickled turnips have been available for years. A recent addition to the market is
the- mlekomat – an automatic raw milk machine which dispenses non-homogenized, non- pasteurized milk from cows that are never treated with antibiotics. Although raw milk in not available in supermarkets in Slovenia, pasteurized, non-homogenized milk can be found in most grocery stores. Slovenian researchers have found that fat from homogenized milk can accumulate and damage the walls of blood vessels damaging them. Chemical technology engineer Maja Tomkiewicz-Vouk feels that all homogenized milk, like cigarettes, should come with written warnings. She further stresses that the body cannot absorb calcium from homogenized milk, and that pasteurizing milk destroys most of its healthy properties, making processed milk only good for consuming calories. In the United States, processed milk is revered and the media does not cover possible dangers of dairy processing. According to Dr. Ron Schmid ND, in his book Traditional Foods Are Your Best Medicine, some U.S. medical professionals are researching homogenized milk and its effects on health. Dr. Kurt Oster, MD Head of Cardiology at Park City Hospital in Bridgeport. Connecticut, and Dr. Kurt Esselbacher of the Harvard Medical School believe that homogenized milk is a major cause of cardiovascular disease in the United States. These medical experts have found that the rate of heart disease for people living in countries where there is little homogenized milk in the diet is less than half of those living in the United States.
Several years ago I visited Slovenia and had the opportunity to use the “mlekomat ” machine. It was delightful to watch the machine in action for the first time. Each patron performed the procedure very matter-of-factly before going on their way. I was excited when it was my turn, and couldn’t wait to taste the milk. The directions were in Slovenian, but also in English and the machine was easy to use. The milk was the richest and creamiest milk I’ve ever tasted. It was a lovely and delicious surprise. It’s safe to say that my experience with the “mlekomat” made me a fan. The mlekomat system was developed in Switzerland and perfected in Italy. The area where the milk is dispensed is disinfected after each use with an ultraviolet antibacterial lamp. A special fan repels insects, and the temperature is automatically checked every 20 minutes by the machine’s software. The machine’s programming does not allow milk to be dispensed if it is more than 24 hours old, or if there has been an uncontrolled rise its temperature. Health inspectors have a control card which allows them to examine the machines whenever they like. Individual farmers own and maintain their own machines.
Farmers are constantly informed about the status of their machines through a GSM module in their mobile phones. Farmers who own machines usually have a web page that presents information about their farm, their milk’s nutrition, and details about their mlekomat machine. Mlekomats, which are open 24 hours, have been a huge success. Shortly after their introduction in the Capitol, three other machines were in operation there, as well as in 11 other Slovenian cities. In neighboring Italy, just west of Slovenia,
over 1300 are in operation. Map is courtesy of: http://www.milkmaps.com.