Grow-Like-Magic Hyacinth Bean Vines
Hyacinth beans germinate and grow so quickly, you'll think they're magic beans.
Fast & Easy to Grow
Nutritious yet slightly poisonous, tropical yet ideal as an annual in temperate gardens, fast-growing yet not invasive—that’s the hyacinth bean vine (Dolichos lablab or Lablab purpureus), one of the easiest plants to grow for food or for decoration.
Out of Africa
Lablab purpureas is a tropical vine that probably originated in Africa. Today, it's grown as a food crop in some places there. Hyacinth bean vine is also cultivated throughout Asia. In temperate climates, it is considered a fast-growing annual.
Even out of its natural tropical element, hyacinth bean vine is a quick grower, producing long vines that drip bracts of shell-like purple flowers. Its glossy burgundy seed pods are both ornamental and edible.
The large, purple-tinted leaves of the hyacinth bean vine provide shade as well as beauty as they hang from sturdy, burgundy stems that twine and twirl along fences and walls and over arbors and trellises, extending up to 17 feet in a single growing season.
Easy to Save & Store
I enjoy growing hyacinth bean in part because my mother and my grandmother grew it. In fact, my first hyacinth bean vine seeds were given to me by my mother from her vines, which she started from seeds her mother had given to her.
When I see the purple stems of our hyacinth bean vine twine and climb our backyard fence, I recall how it looked on the trellis next to my grandmother’s back door and how it provided shade from the setting sun on my mother’s patio.
For me, growing hyacinth bean vine is a garden tradition, one I’m happy to keep.
As my mother and my grandmother did, I allow most of the pods to dry thoroughly on the vine in the fall and then collect them in paper bags.
I store the bags in a dry place over the winter (our garage) and break them open in spring, planting the seeds and discarding the shells.
Because they're so easy to save and grow, hyacinth bean vine is a perfect plant to pass along to family and friends.
Edible Pods & Seeds
Although they are delicious, hyacinth beans and hyacinth bean pods contain small amounts of cyanide.
To enjoy the pods without getting sick, don't eat large amounts of them at one time. Also, be sure to select immature pods only, which are crunchy and sweet and delicious with vegetable dip or in a chopped salad.
To enjoy dried hyacinth beans themselves without harm, you must first separate them from the pod, soak them in water and rinse them well multiple times before cooking them.
I have never tried this, but people in tropical parts of Africa and throughout Asia commonly grow hyacinth bean as a food crop. Sometimes it's called Indian bean or Egyptian bean.
Easy to Maintain
In temperature climates, hyacinth bean vines can cover a fence, trellis or arbor in a single growing season.
For best results, plant the seeds in a full sun location. Hyacinth bean vine likes rich, loamy soil best but will tolerate other soil types, too. Feeding it every two weeks with a liquid fertilizer like fish fertilizer will also help it develop lush growth.
We plant hyacinth bean vine in our Zone 7 garden from seed in spring after the chance of frost has passed. By mid-summer the vines are big and beautiful with large shady leaves, sturdy stems and dangling pods and flowers that look lovely along our white picket fence.
In fall, after the first hard frost, we collect the last of the dried seed pods and compost the spent vines.
© 2013 Jill Spencer
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