The poljak bean (Lathyrus sativus), or grah poljak, was well known in the area of Trebinje and was an important staple for centuries. It was once considered the “meat of the poor.” The beans have an irregular shape, resembling crushed pebbles, and come in a variety of colors. This bean was traditionally cultivated in Popovo Polje, near the Adriatic coast, for its extremely short vegetation period and abilty to grow in poor soil. Popovo Polje, as a typical karst field, was mainly flooded throughout the year, and so the local population needed a crop which could complete its vegetation cycle in short time. Today only few farmers produce this variety of bean. It is often grown with corn plants, which allows the climbing bean to follow the corn stalks for growth, as opposed to stakes. It is harvested in August and annual production is about 100-200 kilos, which are usually consumed by local families or given as a gift to friends and relatives. Lately, the prospects of the field bean have improved as it has gained recognition as a product that helps reduce levels of blood sugar and cholesterol when dried, roasted and ground. The resulting powder is used in preparing a beverage similar to coffee. People in Trebinje serve it with a promise of good health or, at least, as a recipe that will help in diabetes treatment. The poljak bean produces low yields and requires a large amount of manual labor since no mechanization is available for the harvesting. It can be cultivated only in warm regions of Herzegovina with moderate Mediterranean climate with mild winters. The number of cultivators of this plant is reduced due to the low profitability of the yield.
Image: Archivio Slow Food