Our crop climate project aims to preserve and test a diversity of varieties especially for northern climates with short growing seasons. My rather eclectic approach to the bean component of our project was to trial whatever we could find. A few years ago, I purchased a packet of dry white beans in a Polish food store in Vancouver, British Columbia.
My attitude to dry white beans has been that they are the same, no distinctive colour, probably little
distinctive taste, with little difference in growing characteristics. To my surprise I discovered the Aura
bean that has so far has turned out to be the earliest maturing dry bean among at least thirty varieties
and it is widely appreciated in Polish cuisine. This makes Aura a promising tasty option for northern
In 2022, a year with a cool and damp spring, I sowed seeds from the previous year’s harvest on May 22. The site has full sun located at the south edge of a raised bed. Despite our mild springs, this part of my garden can experience light ground frosts until mid May. Seedlings emerged by May 31 with 100% germination. Plants grew quickly and were in full bloom by July 15, at which time there were even some tiny pods forming (Figure 1). Pods reached full size by July 25 and filled with seed by August 2 at which time only a few white flowers remained on the plants (Figure 2).
By August 11 the pods were yellowing. The beans were mostly dry by August 19 when I pulled the plants and briefly let them completely dry in the sun. From sowing to full harvest of dry beans took only 89 days. The yield was a solid 0.26 kg / metre of row. The previous year I sowed a week later and harvested at 95 days and the yield was only 0.14kg/metre. The site however was somewhat shaded by pole beans immediately adjacent on the north side.
Aura is a short bush bean with stiff stems, standing erect mostly 35-40 (50)cm (=14-16”) tall without any tendency to vine. It produces typical white flowers (Figure 2) which quickly develop into straight to slightly curving pods with long thin beaks (1.5-2.5 cm =2/3 to 1”) (Figures 3 and 4). When ripe the pods are pale yellow and generally do not shatter (Figure 4). Individual pods range from 10.5 to 15cm long (=4-6”) typically about 12cm (5”). There are about 20 pods per plant. They produce 3-5 seeds per pod, and the pods are easy to shell by hand.
Seeds are small, shiny white and rounded, some with a faint yellow ring around the small scar. On close inspection you can see a pattern of veining over the seed coat. Length ranges from 1.3-1.5cm (about ½”) with a height and width of about 0.6 to 0.7cm (about ¼”). It takes about 1000 seeds to make up half a kilogram of dry mass.
According to Polish websites Aura is highly valued for its resistance to diseases, uniform ripening and no lodging making it easy to harvest. With a yield of two tons per hectare, previously noted uniform ripening and lack of seed lodging it is widely grown. In Poland the interval to harvest is about 95-110 days about 5-10 days longer than here on the Saanich Peninsula. Sowing is recommended from May 10-15 suggesting seeds can germinate in somewhat cool soil. Seeds are sown in rows 30-40 cm apart and about 10 cm apart in the row. This relatively close row spacing ensures that the plants cover the ground fully between rows. One source recommends sowing seeds in north-south rows to get maximum sun exposure. This practice may be a good one for all bush bean varieties, reducing cool shading on the north side.
I look forward to eating my beans this winter. In Poland Aura is eaten as a side dish with meat and fish. It is an excellent addition to vegetable and other soups. The Polish website “Jadlonomia” describes a vegetarian alternative to the traditional meat-heavy Easter meal. The dish combines two cups of presoaked Aura beans with beer, mustard, onion and smoked peppers, sweetened with maple syrup and spiced to taste. Boil the beans 40-50 minutes to soften them, then combine with the other ingredients and bake for about an hour and a half for a delicious main dish. (see https://www.jadlonomia.com/przepisy/biala-fasola-pieczona-z-cebulka/ in Polish for full details).
As our climate warms, opportunities arise to grow crops further north than ever before. Try Aura bush bean to provide a delicious plant protein adaptable to many dishes.