Hyacinth beans

Eleanorm(Z5ONT)June 8, 2002

I read occasional references to "Hyacinth Beans," but can't find anything listed that way in any seed catalogue.

Would someone please tell me how/where to look for them? Last year i planted a bean which had beautiful purple foliage and lovely lilac coloured flowers, but the flowers were totally buried under the foliage. The beans were very long, slender and purple, and turned green when cooked. Could they have been "Hyacinth Beans?" I'm confused because I assumed from comments that Hyacinth Bean has beautiful and more obvious flowers than what I had. Any info appreciated.

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weebus(Z8 Sunset 5 WA)

That sounds about right. From what you have described, I would say, yes, those were Hyacinth Bean vines. It is also called 'Lap Lap'

    Bookmark   June 8, 2002 at 5:21PM
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weebus(Z8 Sunset 5 WA)

Dang! I'm just not here today. LAB LAB..as in Lablab purpurea.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2002 at 5:24PM
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Thanks for the input, Weebus: from what I have read, e flowers were significant, but my vines hid the flowers.
Hmmm -- have to try again and see if I can coax them out of hiding.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2002 at 6:01PM
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blackeyed_pea(z8a SC US)

I think you may have had a "regular" purple pole bean. Hyacinth beans have a pod that is short and wide, shaped much like a lima bean pod, but magenta purple. The flowers are displayed high. They are very showy.

I've heard various reports on edibility though, including the need for special cooking methods to deal with poisonous alkaloids. I'd want to know more about that before eating some myself. Very pretty in any case. Picture below I found shows some pods and flowers.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   June 9, 2002 at 9:03PM
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K-Mart...Martha Stuart has Hyacinth Bean seeds $2.75

    Bookmark   June 9, 2002 at 10:52PM
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It doesn't sound like hyacinth bean to me, either. Hyacinth bean pods are short, not long. The raw plant parts of hyacinth bean are poisonous, particularly in large amounts. The beans should be boiled in several changes of water before eating.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hyacinth bean info

    Bookmark   June 11, 2002 at 9:12PM
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My hyacinth reseeded and is taking over my tiny garden. I bought the original at a very trendy garden store because it looked so edible. It produced only a few pods last year. Now it's a floozy and I understand it might be poisonous. Does anyone know the true scoop on edibility?? I hate to give so much space to an edible pretender, even a gorgeous one.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2002 at 9:45PM
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The whole plant is poisonous raw. The beans can be eaten if boiled with several changes of water. Frankly, it seems like too much work for me. I'll stick to my scarlet runners...

    Bookmark   June 28, 2002 at 4:26PM
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Thanks for the info. Since my roof deck garden is a community space, with lots of children up there at various time, I may either avoid planting them, or, if I break down and try them for the appearance, I'll nip off the beans as soon as they appear. But except for tomatoes, most city folks don't recognize veggies unless they come packaged in plastic bags in the grocery shop, and I once had someone ask me, "Are those real beans," when I showed him the beans hanging on the Scarlet Runner vines. But, kids being what they are, having a poisonous fruit hanging on a beautiful vine might be too much of a temptation.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2002 at 11:20AM
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Hyacinth beans can't be too poisonous as I feed the beans and the flowers to my parrot. She's not suffered at all. I don't feed a lot of them, just as a now and then treat, but she's only 1 lb and that would be like me eating 130 (LOL) beans or flower stalks. I have tried them with no ill effects, either. They are just VERY beany tasting and very stringy and tough. If you get the real DOLICHIOS LAB LAB seeds, they are black with a white seam. The flowers are incredibly showy and everyone wants some seeds when they see the flowers which are held high above the (pretty) foliage. THey do reseed themselves and a few of the seeds do live through our zone 7 winters on the ground and sprout in the spring. They're not what I call invasive, though, because they are easily pulled as babies and don't spread by the roots or anything like some awful, unstoppable (mexican primrose, silver king artemesia) weeds do.
If you're going to get some, do it soon. They love heat, and should do well. You want to do it soon so you can get some mature pods before frost so you can have them next year, too.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2002 at 7:46PM
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Thanks for all the information. A friend is supposed to be picking up some seeds for me, and if she does, I'll have a go at them. They sound so spectacular, and I have one barrel with a "Coral Vine," which just hasn't germinated, so I'll try the Hyacinth Bean, and keep an eye on the beans when and it.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2002 at 11:20PM
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can anyone suggest a mail-order( or E-order) source for hyacinth bean? thanks to everyone...

    Bookmark   July 14, 2002 at 11:27AM
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still reading this? Here is an interesting site, hope it helps. Scroll

Here is a link that might be useful: hyacinth bean info

    Bookmark   October 13, 2002 at 8:00PM
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newyorkrita(z6b/7a LI NY)

Loved the picture on the link above. Am planning to try this next year as an ornamental, just as I grow my Scarlett Runners as ornamentals.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2003 at 9:28PM
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Please don't judge edibility by what your parrot eats. Birds can eat a lot of things that are poisonous to humans. Sorry if I sound preachy, but someone I know got very sick eating some wild berries he thought were OK because he saw the birds eating them and I'd hate to see the same happen to anyone else.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2003 at 10:12PM
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kathcart(NE Okla 7 Ozark)

Silly me- I planted purple hyacinth beans with other beans and cooked and ate them (mixed)... the short thick ones that are purple and cook up green. That's what happens when you plant seeds that don't come with instructions. They seemed tasty.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2003 at 8:59PM
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My dogs love my purple hyacinth beans, straight off the vine. They're still alive and kicking.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2003 at 11:24PM
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Just my opinion:
From what I understand parrots often eat toxic plants in the wild and then calm their stomachs with clay.
Judging by what I've seen my dogs eat I wouldn't trust them as a guide either. (dogs calm their stomachs by eating grass)
If you still want to try something questionable don't do it while you are alone and make sure your health insurance is current.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2003 at 3:19PM
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Oh and Walmart here has seeds.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2003 at 3:22PM
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the_alpha_wolf_rules(z7 NC)

I TOTALLY agree with jeanne51 and june02bug! NEVER judge edibility by watching animals eat them. many birds consider holly berries to be a delicacy while they are poisonous to humans and dogs. box turtles can eat poisonous mushrooms. also never give anything to any animal if you aren't absolutly sure they can eat it. for example, parrots (I have two lovely lovebirds :D) and dogs could DIE from chocolate, while we die FOR chocolate!!! lol

    Bookmark   May 30, 2003 at 6:13PM
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I purchased the Martha Stewart brand @KMart, sowed indoors in peat pots and they never germinated. It's possible some days they didn't get enough heat from the radiator. I did soak the seed overnite before sowing.
Any suggestions so I have better luck next time?
In the meantime, I just soaked the last of the packet. I'm still working on finishing up a new garden bed for vegs & herbs so I'm still not ready to plant out yet.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2003 at 12:18PM
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As or soaking beans and planting them indoors, I always just wait until the soil is warm -- usually
mid-June -- and plant the beans, unsoaked, outside. Never had any problem wth them germinating that way. Thanks for all the input about edibility. I will be growing them for appearance only, on a bare wall where I usually plant some sort of decorative vine. To be on the safe side, I will pick off the beans and get rid of them as soon as they look like beans.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2003 at 1:24PM
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newyorkrita(z6b/7a LI NY)

I personally think the flowers on the Scarlett Runner Beans are prettier because they are more numerous. But the leaves on the hyacinth beans are outstanding and then there are those purple pods. Lovely, and the flowers on those long stems sorta stick out from the plant.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2003 at 1:49PM
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Fresh tender HBV pods or beans can be cooked and eaten like any edible beans. For dried HBV beans, cook with two changes of water (discard water), then they can be eaten.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2003 at 10:40AM
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Chattanooga_gardener(z7 TN)

The "special cooking method" is laughably simple. You just boil it with the lid off!

Only the dried beans are really poisonous. I found these recipes for fresh hyacinth beans, and they're identical to recipes for any other type of "green bean":

Hyacinth Bean with Sesame Paste
Fagioli al Tonno

According to this page, the toxin is a type of cyanogen, which is also found in lima beans and to get rid of it one must boil the beans in a pot with the lid off so that it can escape as a gas. In other words, you just cook it like any other kind of bean, the "special" part is keeping the lid off.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2004 at 11:16AM
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stefoodie(Z6 OH)


stumbled onto this thread because i have some "bataw" that i grew in my garden this year (the seeds came from my dad, who has been growing it from years; he originally got the seeds from someone in the philippines). i've eaten these beans since i was a child, with no adverse reactions whatsoever. i'm thinking it may have been misidentified as "hyacinth bean". nevertheless, the following links present varying information:

Swallowtail Garden Seeds

Gardenweb Discussion #1

Gardenweb Discussion #2

See Note about toxicity
Another view
"Fruit edible", from the Kemper Center in St. Louis

My beans have green pods with a purple/magenta edge. The stem is the same color as the ones shown in the links above, but the leaves on mine are a lighter green.

And here's my favorite way of cooking it:

coconut milk
the beans, washed and trimmed
an inch of ginger, flattened with knife
salt to taste, or shrimp paste
a hot chili or two if desired

bring everything to a boil in a pot, then simmer for 10 minutes or so until beans are as tender as you would like. sometimes i like them crisp-tender, sometimes i like them really mushy.


the purple-pod ones look a bit scary to me though.

if "my" hyacinth beans (or whatever they are) grow well this year, i'll be happy to trade seeds next spring:)


    Bookmark   August 15, 2004 at 8:04PM
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If anyone is still looking for hyacinth bean seeds, I *am* sure that I have the black-and-white seeded Lablab Purpurea variety.

Being a relative newby -sort of- I have very little to trade this year, but I've got about 100 of these I'd be willing to part with :-)

(See my exchange page for the kinds of things I'm in search of.)

    Bookmark   October 21, 2006 at 11:29PM
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pitangadiego(San Diego, CA)

Pix at http://encantofarms.com/frts6143.html

Purple variety are toxic if, not properly cooked.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2007 at 10:52PM
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corapegia(z5 NY)

Here are both a source for the sead from a garden seed company and information about the cooking method. http://www.evergreenseeds.com/haycinthbean.html
I found this seed source while looking through the Asian Vegetabel forum. Hope it helps.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2007 at 10:07AM
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In the 1943 book "Edible Wild Plants of Eastern North America" by Fernald and Kinsey, they report on page 256:

"The ornamental Hyacinth-bean [Dolichos Lablab] with showy purple or white flowers in long and interrupted spike-like clusters and large pods about one inch broad, is cultivated ciefly for ornament sutward and has escaped to roadsides and thickets northward to the District of Columbia and Ohio. In the Far East, where it is native, the young foliage, tender young pods and fresh inflorscences are eaten either raw or steamed, while the beans are cooked."

In the 1978 "guide to the poisonous and irritant plants of Florida" issued by the state, which often errs on the side of hysteria, it says on page 23 "raw beans (and other parts?) with glycosides which release HCN. Well-cooked seeds eaten in the tropics. When raw, they may cause vomiting, weakness, labored respiration, twitching, stupor, colnvulsions and unconsciousness."

I note with some optiomism, they did they did not mention death. The same guide says of the common onion: Anemia, rarely death, may result from eating large amounts.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2007 at 10:45PM
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Thank you Stefoodie for the bean recipe. If in doubt Iôd say donôt eat stuff growing wild in your garden unless you get a chance to compare it with a real example of what you think it may be. In the 9 years since the original post, hope the question of toxicity has been settled. From what I have read, the entire dolichos lab lab, leaves and all, is edible but the dried beans must be cooked thoroughly to break down alkaloids that are not a problem with the fresh beans. Other more common dried beans like adzuki or red kidney beans require the same care.

And when can I expect my lab lab to flower :( they have been growing since September (in the southern hemisphere thatÃÂ the start of spring) and are now more than 2 metres tall.

Also I have another clump of similar looking vines that I would not be picking for greens. Iôm afraid they may be jicama, which is all poisonous except for the tuber! Whatever it was took so long to grow, I canôt recall what it was and it may well be more lablab... but then I have never seen a jicama plant. Thankfully, their flowers are easily distinguishable!

    Bookmark   January 25, 2011 at 10:25PM
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So, Are They Or Aren't They Poisonous??

Although grown in the US mainly as an ornamental(aggressive) plant, the lablab is a popular food in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. Seeds are less than a half inch long. Their color ranges from white to brown, red, and black. The plant itself grows as a vine, with large broad leaves.

Lablab is an excellent source of iron and magnesium and a good source of phosphorus, zinc, copper, and thiamin.

Lablab pods can be eaten fresh. Dried beans can be prepared in the same way as other legumes.

Lablab sprouts can be eaten. Often, however, lablab seeds are ground into flour and used to make bread or an oatmeal-like dish. In India, lablab seeds are dried, split, and then cooked.

The recent Oct. 28, 2011 newsletter from The Dr. of Dirt says nothing about their aggressive nature or poisonous possibilities.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2011 at 1:32PM
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