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Swedish coffee (Astragalus boeticus L.), a neglected coffee substitute with a past and a potential future

AuthorsProhens, Jaime; Andújar, Isabel; Vilanova, Santiago; Plazas, Mariola; Gramazio, Pietro; Prohens, Rafael; Herraiz, Francisco J.; Ron Pedreira, Antonio Miguel de
KeywordsAstragalus boeticus
Coffee substitute
Crop history
Neglected crops
Swedish coffee
Issue DateJan-2014
CitationGenetic Resources and Crop Evolution 61 (1): 287- 297 (2014)
AbstractSwedish coffee (Astragalus boeticus) seeds have been used as a coffee substitute, in particular during the nineteenth century and in times of scarcity. A. boeticus is found in the wild in a wide range of environments in the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions and is able to grow in areas with low and irregular rainfall. It is well-adapted to cultivated and disturbed environments, has indehiscent pods and high yield potential, and is therefore pre-adapted to cultivation and domestication. Swedish coffee is an annual that flowers in spring and produces small (3–6 mm × 3–5 mm) kidney-shaped seeds that can be harvested in summer. The genetic diversity of the species has not been studied, but evidence (wide range of environments, insect pollination) suggests that considerable diversity exists in the species. The genetic resources of Swedish coffee conserved in germplasm banks are very limited, with only 49 accessions conserved in six genebanks. Although no cultivated varieties exist at present and no breeding studies are underway, evidence suggests that limited breeding could result in considerable genetic advances. The cultivation of A. boeticus was very important during the nineteenth century in several countries of Europe, in particular in Sweden, where the cultivation was promoted as a coffee substitute by the monarchy. Several reports exist on its cultivation in several countries of Northern, Central and Southern Europe during the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century. However, its cultivation gradually lost importance and was eventually abandoned. Swedish coffee can be grown in different types of soils as a regular winter or spring legume crop, and thanks to symbiosis with rhizobia may be able to perform well with reduced N fertilization. Several historical accounts report an excellent quality of the coffee substitute prepared with roasted Swedish coffee seeds. However, no investigations have been carried out to study the process of roasting and its influence on the final quality. The information presented here indicates that limited efforts in A. boeticus breeding, cultivation, and industrial processing potentially might result in the recovery of this neglected coffee substitute.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10722-013-0059-0
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