Although the brown bean is a very old Swedish agricultural crop, it is not well-known in the Swedish kitchen. For most people the bean isassociated with a single traditional dish – sweet and sour bean stew. However, the bean has wide potential and can be used in many combinations; both for hot dishes during the cold of winter and in salads at garden parties during summer.
Historical information on the use of brown beans only dates back 120 years but dried beans and peas have been used in Sweden for centuries due to their storability and high nutritional value.
Today, the brown bean of Öland is a food and agricultural heritage of Sweden that is unfortunately facing the threat of extinction.
Only a handful of growers produce beans, on roughly 500 hectares. The nutritional value of the brown bean, its fibre content and its relatively low price make the bean a smart and healthy food.
The Brown Bean – A Cultural Heritage of Öland and Sweden
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.
Help us preserve the typical Swedish bean by eating it!
JTI - Swedish Institute of Agricultural and Environmental Engineering
See link to the right!
The bean dishes in this brochure are intended to provide inspiration in your own home cooking. We have tried to include some ideas for Swedish and international style recipes that are suitable for all seasons.