Have you ever seen this amazing bean variety? Independence Beans have a long and fascinating history in Poland. They are also known as “Eagle Beans”. In Polish they are “Fasola Niepodleglosci”. It is a white bean which is endowed by nature with a cherry red spot in the shape of an eagle. It is very similar to the eagle which is depicted on the Polish national emblems! Moreover, on some of the beans there is a spot resembling an eagle’s crown. It is hard to believe that these shapes are natural and have not been painted by hand.
Independence Beans have a long and fascinating history in Poland. They are also known as “Eagle Beans”. In Polish they are “Fasola Niepodleglosci”. It is a white bean which is endowed by nature with a cherry red spot in the shape of an eagle. It is very similar to the eagle which is depicted on the Polish national emblems! Moreover, on some of the beans there is a spot resembling an eagle’s crown. It is hard to believe that these shapes are natural and have not been painted by hand.
Independence Beans are very well known in the villages surrounding Nowy Sącz, in Southern Poland, and especially in Podegrodzie, but there is so much information which is unclear or forgotten, concerning the beans’ past history. As per oral history in Sądecczyzna (the name of the region), the beans first appeared from the borderlands of Eastern Poland. During the partitions, and especially after the failure of the January Uprising in 1863, the beans had been considered a patriotic symbol. Some memories, articles and diaries, mention the beans being cultivated all over Poland, and especially by the local nobility, for whom it was very important to maintain the old, national traditions. The invading Russian authorities had forbidden the cultivation these beans, and victimized the people who dared to do so. That is why the eagle beans were planted secretly, and sometimes among other plants, such as potatoes. This secret planting is a big reason why the Independence Beans have survived until the present times of Polish freedom. A common form of expressing patriotism during that time, was to prepare at least one Christmas Eve meal using the eagle beans.
At the end of 20th century, the patriotic eagle beans had probably survived only in the area of Nowy Sącz. It was a retired doctor, Mr. Zenon Kukier, whose family brought the tradition here in the 1980’s. Mr. Kukier and his family came from the eastern borderlands and they have cultivated this beautiful bean for many generations.
Then there is Mr. Zenon Szewczyk, from Podegrodzie, who is a local activist, and is passionate about the culinary traditions of this region. Mr. Szewczyk is the author of a book containing recipes from the Nowy Sącz region. During Mr. Szewczyk’s research and collection of ethnographic information concerning the local food traditions, he met Mr. Andrzej Bulzak, from Świniarsko village. It was the beginning of another chapter in the Independence Bean history. Mr Bulzak gave Mr. Szewczyk the bean seeds and asked him to continue to maintain this dying tradition. Currently, Mr. Szewczyk cultivates the beans, and gives them away to his neighbors, visitors and anyone else who is interested in them. And now , thanks to Mr. Szewczyk, the beans have begun to be more and more popular in the surrounding villages of Łącko, Chełmiec, and Podegrodzie.
Independence Bean recipes are now being prepared during Christmas, Independence Day, and for local harvest festivals, and there is hope that the beans will survive for future generations.
Fortunately, the beans have a very stable species feature: it does not change its shape or design, and it does not hybridize with other species. It is easy to grow, and as it is a low growing type of plant that does not require to be placed on the special pole. And they are GMO free!
In 2007, the Independence Beans had been registered by the Institute of Vegetable Genetic Research, in Skierniewice. Such research is organized to protect an existing species of cultivating plants. The Institute began cooperation with Mr. Szewczyk, to protect the genetic material of the beans, and the biggest success was in 2010, when the Independence Beans were registered in the special list of traditional and local products of the Lesser Poland regions . The research is coordinated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Poland.
Unlike other beans, Independence Beans have a very delicate taste, and can be used in salads , and soups or even with Red Borsch. There is also a recipe for “Beans with Smoked Plums” from Mr. Zenon Szewczyk. The beans should be prepared the day before, by soaking them in water overnight. They are then cooked in salted water, until soft. The smoked plums are soaked separately, so that they become soft. Cook the plums as well. Then mix the two ingredients and cook together for a few minutes. Add some salt and sugar. The dish can be served during Christmas Eve.
See the map of all Tastes of Poland, with the location of Podegrodzie, where the beans are cultivated: http://blog.polishorigins.com/2013/05/21/tastes-of-poland-introduction/