Fasulja kacavjerrese e Lekbibajt
The Lekbibaj creeping bean is a local variety from the mountain villages of Tropoja District in northern Albania, where it has been cultivated for more than 100 years. This variety produces white, kidney-shaped beans, each weighing about 1 gram. They need to be sown in May and the harvest is in August (90 – 100 days after planting).
Their taste is pleasant, with a slightly sweet flavor and a soft consistency. They boil very quickly.
The seeds are saved and passed from generation to generation. Tropoja, and especially the villages of Lekbibaj and Nikaj-Mërtur, have a cool climate; the snow usually arrives in November and remains until March or April. The Lekbibaj bean tolerates both low and high temperatures and has good resistance to diseases. These beans are cultivated in flat areas where they can be irrigated. They prefer deep, rich soil. The beans are planted by hand among corn (usually one bean plant after every 3-4 corn plants). Harvest takes place 90-100 days after planting, and must be done by hand because beans wind around the corn stalks. Once they have dried, the beans are stored in linen sacks.
The Lekbibaj creeping bean is one of the rarest Albanian cultivars with stabilized traits and economic value for growers. It has been of great importance to inhabitants of the area where it is grown and was used throughout the winter and a good meat substitute.
In village schools, teachers used beans as a teaching tool to explain arithmetic to elementary school students. Locals would often exchange the beans for products, such as oil, that they did not produce themselves.
The cultivation of the Lekbibaj creeping bean is at risk due to the abandonment of the land and local, traditional agriculture—most young people have left Lekbibaj and Nikaj-Mërtur and moved to the cities where there are more opportunities and better living conditions.
Beans, along with corn and chestnuts, are one of the most important products of the area, and are an important source of protein. The main dish prepared with Lekbibaj beans is fasule ne vorbe, a stew cooked in a clay pot that hangs from an iron holder above the fire. The beans are cooked in water with dried meat (pastrami), and red pepper is added at the end. This is one of the most characteristic dishes of the region, and was traditionally cooked by both men and women, who would sit by the hearth and stir it. Lekbibaj beans are also made into a thin soup which is eaten with rice pilaf.