Common names: Lab Lab Bean, Hyacinth Bean, Dolichos bean, Poor Man Bean
Taxonomic name: Lablab purpureus
Uses: Food, forage
Area of origin: Africa
Warnings: Parts must be cooked and the cooking water discarded before eating by humans.
Continually trying to hide our mailbox is a perennial bean that we love, our Lab Lab Bean. I hack it back almost every day but it continues to threaten to entangle the postman.
Lab Lab Beans are a shorty lived perennial bean that is drought tolerant, loves full Sun and produces prodigious amounts of flowers and pods during the hot weather. It is a very vigorous vine and will spread rapidly but that’s a good thing in the right place, right? We share seeds of it with friends who want to cover some bare soil quickly bit with an edible plant. Last Winter, ours hardly missed a beat and didn’t die back much at all, though flower production was way down in the cold.
The seed pods are best eaten young, before they start to get fibrous and stringy. Both the pods and the seeds must be cooked and the water changed several times before eating as they contain chemicals that are converted to hydrogen cyanide in our bodies.The leaves are edible too, and should be given the same treatment. My favourite bit is the flowers though, the purple, pea flowers make for a pleasant, slightly crunchy snack and can be eaten straight off of the vine.
We also grow Lab Lab Beans as a fodder crop for the chickens and as biomass for the garden. It’s an excellent permaculture plant because it can perform multiple duties in the garden. Our’s is a food provider, bee fodder, shade maker, postman grabber, nitrogen fixer, and shade maker. It also gets a lot of conversations going with folks who thought it was ‘that other vine with purple flowers’. They’re surprised that it’s a bean and they can eat it as well as have it for its looks.