2017 Harvest

Friday, August 19, 2016

It's all beans

There is a secret bond between Croats and beans. "Meat for the poor" as we call it has been important part of our diet. In 20th century many people couldn't afford meat or fish so they mainly fed on beans and bread. Beans are still very important vegetable. Every gardener grows at least one variety of beans and bean stew is one of the most popular meals in many gatherings. Every May, 1st there are thousands of plates shared to the people celebrating international workers day with a traditional workers meal.

Croats grow two main types of beans. We call them "grah" and "mahune". They both belong to the Phaseolus vulgaris but to us they are 2 completely different vegetables.
So imagine my surprise when few years ago I started writing my blog and discovered that in English all beans are beans. Yes most of them have 2 word meaning but they are still beans. And to us that's very confusing. I always knew that our 2 bean varieties have the same latin name but to us when you say "grah" you know what kind of beans you're talking about and there's no mixing it with any other.

To Croats "grah"(beans) are bean varieties where only part of the plant which is used is bean seeds. Dry beans, kidney, pinto, navy beans we all call them "grah". We difference them by their colour and variety name, We won't say "dry bean" or "kidney bean" we say "grah Trešnjevac" or "crveni grah".
Also we make a big difference between pole beans and bush beans. We call them "visoki"(tall) and "niski"(short) grah. We don't have harvest rules. Some people harvest dry beans and when they dry up while others harvest them as young beans.

I grow 2 types "grah" Trešnjevac and Zelenček.

Trešnjevac is an horticultural bean and Zelenček is and old Croatian white kidney bean. They can both be used dry and while still fresh and young. I wait for the beans to get stripes or in Zelenček case a green spot on top of the seed and then collect it. Still young beans are cooked and deep freezed or cooked and stored in jars for winter.
The reason why I don't let them to dry is simple. My beans can't dry. I grow them in a shady part of the garden where most of the year is very moist and bean pods rot before drying. I actually have to be very careful and harvest 4 or 5 times my bean bed because if I leave them too long they will start rotting even if the rest of the pods are still completely green.

Second type of varieties that Croats enjoy are "mahune". The best translation of the word mahune would be pods. This are basically the varieties that are used while there are no bean seeds inside and they only have pods. We don't wait for them to reach full size or start forming "strings". We harvest them every 3 to 4 days. Also they are beans that we sow 2 to 4 times during the summer.
We difference tall and short "mahune", the ones that grow on poles and the ones that grow as a bush. We also difference them by shape: "olovke"- pen shaped, "kifleki"-curved beans, "široke"- broad beans.
Note: broad beans are not the broad beans in Croatia. Here Vicia faba (fava beans) are called "Bob".

I grow many varieties of "mahune".
This year I grew Violet podded pole beans. Stringless beans that grew amazingly. They gave me huge amount of beans from only few plants and they really are stringless. Even when they are too big.

 A bit less successful were my Nano Purple King beans. They pods were a bit too small for my taste. I've sown the 2 times, first time in shade and the others I've sown in the sun. The ones that I grew in the sun are much bigger than the shade one.

Violet podded on the left, purple king on the right

I have also sown Berggold wax beans that have been great this year and Kentucky wax pole bean which was good in the beginning but developed bean rust just couple of weeks after first fruits. And since I don't spray my beans they died just few days later.

Kentucky wax on the left, Berggold on the right

Wonder of Piedmont, bean that can be used both as young bean and as dry beans has been good like every year. Only small problem with it is that they tend to get rolled on the floor by strong winds.
Anellino di Trento curved bush bean. Nice amount of beans harvested but downside is that they are very very hard to harvest. Bush is very short, only few cm from the ground and inside are small curved green beans that are difficult to spot.

Anellino di Trento on the left, Wonder of Piedmont on the right

In the end I harvest all my "mahune" in one bag and cook them together. But still sow many different varieties, cause you never know which variety will work which year.


  1. It's so interesting to see how things are done in different areas of the world. I enjoyed this!

  2. It's a very interesting post, I can see some similarities to Poland and Polish language. However, I don't think we eat as many beans as Croats, but we also differentiate beans as two types of vegetables. Here grah is simply fasola and mahune is fasola szparagowa :) And bob is bób, so very similar :)

  3. To confuse this and further here in England we have different names for beans than they do in the USA.
    Their pole beans are runner beans and we call their bush beans dwarf French beand and we have climbing French beans. Their fava beans are our broad beans. So even with a common language it can be confusing.


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