In recent years Ukraine has been a focus of conflict between Russia and the West. But it is also a country of rich culture, natural beauty and a growing middle class. Here are five things you should know before visiting this fascinating nation.
1. Lard Spread
A popular snack in Ukraine, lard spread is made from smoked pork fat, garlic, pepper and sometimes dill. It is usually smeared on bread or used as a dip for vegetables or chips. While the idea may sound gross, it is surprisingly good and you should give it a try if you visit the country. You can find it in most restaurants and snack bars.
Deruny, or lazy pierogi are a traditional food in Ukraine. They are filled with a variety of ingredients such as cottage cheese, potatoes, cabbage, mushrooms or ground meat. They are often served with sour cream or a sweet sauce. You can find them in many restaurants and cafes across the country.
The chernozems of central Ukraine are among the most fertile in the world and make up about two-thirds of the country’s land area. Unlike most other soils, they are black and extremely deep, with an average depth of 5 feet (1.5 metres). Depending on the region, they may be divided into three broad groups: in the north a zone of deep chernozems; in the centre a belt of prairie or ordinary chernozems, which are about 3 feet (1 metre) thick; and in the south a layer of chestnut chernozems, which have even less humus.
If you’re celebrating Christmas in Ukraine, you can’t miss the dessert called kutia. It’s a mixture of wheat, poppy seeds, raisins and nuts topped with honey or syrup. This delicious pudding is traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve, when it’s believed to bribe the spirits of departed ancestors and bring prosperity in the coming year.