Öland Swedish Brown (Bush Dry Bean)

Öland Swedish Brown (Bush Dry Bean)

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Öland Swedish Brown, Bush Dry Bean, Phaseolus vulgaris. 90 days.

Small, round brown bean with a mellow flavor. Traditionally used in Swedish sweet and sour bean stew (made with molasses and vinegar), and we enjoy it in Boston baked beans. Brown beans have been a staple in Sweden for hundreds of years. Though they were once grown in several areas of the country, Öland, an island off the south-east coast, is now the only place where they are still grown.

In general, the growing of field beans for drying can be traced back to about 1650 in Sweden. Carl Linnaeus reported the climate on the island of Öland to be good for growing beans back in 1741, but the first real evidence of brown beans from Öland is from 1885, when a small rural shop in northern Öland began to sell them.

There are records in the journal of the local agricultural society from 1884, 1897 and 1906 showing brown bean being cultivated on the island. Brown beans have been grown continuously on Öland ever since.

The beans are brown-coloured Phaseolus vulgaris beans, which are eaten boiled. They are generally not eaten raw. The beans are simply called bruna bönor (brown beans) in Swedish.

Today, four cultivars are used in commercial production, Stella, Bonita, Katja and Karin. The cultivar Karin originates from cross-breeding of other cultivars and is only grown on Öland. Stella can be traced back to 1927, as a breed originating from old rural varieties.

All Swedish supermarkets stock dried brown beans and the ready-toheat bean stew that is a well-known traditional dish.

Today the acreage is decreasing rapidly due to more economically attractive crops and less demand for brown beans. In the long run, cropping may decrease to levels where this agricultural food heritage risks extinction.

Featured in the Slow Food Ark of Taste,  For recipes and a complete history, check out the Öland website: www.oland.se/en/the-swedish-brown-bean 

Direct sow 1″ deep May through June in rows that are 1′ apart. Thin seedlings to 3-6″ spacing. Protect early sowings from frost. Stop irrigating in early August. Harvest beans from pods that are fully dry. Shell by hand, by dancing, or by driving on beans spread on a tarp. Winnow to clean. Test for dryness with a hammer – dry beans shatter.

Seed Saving: Some cross-pollination may occur, but beans mostly self-pollinate.