Smilyan Beans

Bulgaria

Legumes

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Smilyan Beans

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.
It is an idyllic place, where nature is still pristine and the 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 with crops such as corn and potatoes, avoiding the use of chemical products and ensuring there are no adverse effects for the soil. Only very small amounts of beans are produced, usually intended for family consumption. The yields are never greater than 200 kg per producer.
There are two types of Smilyan bean: The first type is brown with black streaks, used in soups or Trahna (a traditional stew of beans and corn); the second type is a larger, 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 at the end of November, 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, accompanied by performances, dancing and competitions, including one for the best producer of the year.

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Smilyan beans are very popular, not only in the local community (where they are a staple of the local diet), but throughout the region. Unfortunately, beans from elsewhere are frequen- tly misrepresented as the Smilyan product, and the local small producers of the upper Arda valley cannot differentiate themselves and receive fair prices for their product. The Slow Food Foundation will work with the producers to select the seeds and keep the variety pure, to improve preservation methods and product packaging. It will focus particularly on defining a set of production rules ensuring the current low environmental impact cultivation methods are preserved and the authentic product is promoted. Another reason for setting up a Presidium for Smilyan beans was to recognize a community that for years has been fighting to defend this variety. A mark of their resolve is that for 10 years all the farmers of the valley have been part of a cooperative that now numbers over 1,000 members. This is an impressive result considering the frequent reluctance to undertake forms of collective action in former communist countries.

Production area
Smilyan municipality and the upper Arda valley, Smolyan province
12 small producers belonging to the Cooperative for Support to the Agricultural Producers of Smilyan

Cooperative for Support to the Agricultural Producers of Smilyan
tel. +359 886461813 - smolena@abv.bg
Presidium coordinator
Dessislava Dimitrova
tel. +359 885432540
dessidim3010@gmail.com
Smilyan beans are very popular, not only in the local community (where they are a staple of the local diet), but throughout the region. Unfortunately, beans from elsewhere are frequen- tly misrepresented as the Smilyan product, and the local small producers of the upper Arda valley cannot differentiate themselves and receive fair prices for their product. The Slow Food Foundation will work with the producers to select the seeds and keep the variety pure, to improve preservation methods and product packaging. It will focus particularly on defining a set of production rules ensuring the current low environmental impact cultivation methods are preserved and the authentic product is promoted. Another reason for setting up a Presidium for Smilyan beans was to recognize a community that for years has been fighting to defend this variety. A mark of their resolve is that for 10 years all the farmers of the valley have been part of a cooperative that now numbers over 1,000 members. This is an impressive result considering the frequent reluctance to undertake forms of collective action in former communist countries.

Production area
Smilyan municipality and the upper Arda valley, Smolyan province
12 small producers belonging to the Cooperative for Support to the Agricultural Producers of Smilyan

Cooperative for Support to the Agricultural Producers of Smilyan
tel. +359 886461813 - smolena@abv.bg
Presidium coordinator
Dessislava Dimitrova
tel. +359 885432540
dessidim3010@gmail.com