• The farmer Michaela Summer in the beatle bean field, Southeast Styria, Bäcksteffl Farmhouse Delicacies Shop

    The queen of the beans

    “At the farm store, cyclists always ask me what kind of weed grows in our corn field that has such nice red blossoms,” says farmer Michaela Summer with a grin. To introduce visitors to her passion, the Styrian runner bean, she opened a special “Runner Bean Cabinet” next to her “Bäcksteffl – Bauernspezereien” farm store.

    Bring on the bean!

    A bean is a bean, right? Michaela Summer very charmingly disagrees and explains the special characteristics of the runner bean: even though the warm summer months in southeast Styria provide optimal conditions for growing runner beans, this fiery-red member of the faboideae family, it is not quite as simple as that, she says. The plants do have their special needs. “The ‘bonela’ – the typical variety of the Styrian runner bean – is actually quite the princess: it is heat-sensitive and has to be sorted by hand. Which means I have four high-maintenance princesses to care for: my three daughters and a purplish-black speckled bean,” Michaela Summer says with a laugh.

    The 38-year-old farmer and nutritionist lives with her family in Halbenrain, near Bad Radkersburg, and has been devoting herself to her “princesses” for ten years now.

    The Queen of the Beetle Beans, Michaela Summer from the Bäcksteffl Farmhouse, Southeast Styria

    The fabulous world of the Styrian runner bean

    The “Runner Bean Cabinet”

    “In 2012, I opened a Runner Bean Cabinet on our farm next to the “Bäcksteffl – Bauernspezereien” shop, which intends to fill in the gaps in our knowledge about this purple bean,” explains Michaela Summer. With film and photographic material, this lovingly designed “more-than-just-a-museum” depicts the seasonal progression of the bean from its planting and grafting to its harvest and processing.

    The runner bean plant has long fascinated people with its appearance: it is often cultivated in the region as a shade-giving climbing plant or as a decorative privacy shield as well. The runner bean is also omnipresent in Styria’s cuisine: runner-bean salad with pumpkin seed oil is a staple at the region’s wine taverns, and the bean is also used in soups and even desserts. “It is now so popular that it is even found in Austria’s top gourmet restaurants,” says Michaela Summer proudly, “because it has a mildly nutty taste, is low in fat, and is a good source of high-quality protein.”

    The Bäcksteffl Farmhouse Delicacies Shop in Southeast Styria

    “My greatest desire is that people sense the lightness of southeast Styria in my products.”

    The farmer Michaela Summer from the Bäcksteffl Farmhouse Delicacies Shop with her beetle beans, Southeast Styria
    Michaela Summer

    The “Bäcksteffl” farm store in southeast Styria

    • Michaela Summer wants people to be able to taste and sense not only the lightness of her region in her products but also the quality of the fruit from her garden.

      This is why she uses her runner beans to create sweet spreads with a chocolate-walnut or wild berry flavour. But the mother of three has another concern: Michaela Summer is a nutritionist and has been giving thought to better nutrition even before giving birth. “My kids don’t grow up completely sugar-free, but as a mother I make sure that they have a healthy and balanced diet.”

    • “Recently I saw a poster advertising 1.5 litres of Coca-Cola for one euro. This is cheaper than water,” says Michaela Summer with exasperation. “As part of my educational training, I researched how nutrition influences the psyche of children. And there is a connection between behavioural problems, poor nutrition and sugar consumption.” This got Summer thinking, and since then, she has devoted herself to developing products that not only taste good but are healthy too. “It is simply of great importance to me to develop produce into new products.”

    • Last year, Summer discovered quinoa: a gluten-free Inca grain often referred to as a superfood. Now she is experimenting with it in her kitchen until the consistency and shelf life are satisfactory and the new product passes muster with her taste testers – her family and their friends.

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    Bäcksteffl Bauernspezereien & Käferbohnen Kabinett

    Dietzen 32

    8492 Halbenrain