Smilyan Beans

Legumes - Bulgaria

The upper Arda Valley of the Rhodope mountains, close to the border with Greece, is a picturesque patchwork of meadows, pasture, cultivated land, and coniferous and deciduous forests. In this idyllic place with pristine nature Christian and Muslim communities have lived peacefully together for centuries. The local soil and climate provide excellent conditions for growing beans, which have been produced by this small mountain community for at least 250 years. Each family cultivates small plots of land, which fit perfectly into the landscape. They all practice intercropping such as corn and potatoes, avoiding the use of chemicals and ensuring there are no adverse effects for the soil. The total average amount of beans produced per year is ca. 30 tons. Most of the beans are intended for family consumption (200 kg per family). However, there are several bigger producers that might reach 1-3 tons per year. These bigger quantities are sold to restaurants, shops for artisan food production or individual consumers in the country and abroad. There are two types of Smilyan bean: The first type is light brown with dark brown streaks (called the golden beans), used in soups or Trahna (a traditional stew of beans and corn and beef); the second type has larger beans, white or purple with streaks, excellent in salads or fried with a batter of flour, eggs and water. Every year the Festival of Smilyan beans is held during the last weekend of October, an event promoted by the mayor of the village and organized with the support of the Slow Food Smilyan Rhodopi Convivium. It is an opportunity for the whole community to celebrate their beans and welcome guest from Bulgaria and abroad. The fest consists of performances, dancing and competitions, including a competition for the best producer of the year and best dish with Smilyan beans.