Bean Mix Varieties   -   Beans, Peas & Lentils

Fabaceae is a very large family in the order Fables, including three subfamilies, at least 630 genera and more than 18,860 species. Pretty much all are toxic, very mildly to extremely deadly, but out of that list of species there are a few important culinary plants, the most important of which you will find listed below.

We have identified only one edible Fabale outside family Fabaceae, and have listed it under "exotics" to avoid a separate page.

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Common Varieties

This section is for beans peas and lentils fairly commonly used in the Americas, India and East/Southeast Asia.

Acacia   -   [Climbing Wattle; Cha-om (Thai); Pak La, Pak Ka (Laos); Su pout ywet (Burmese); Saom (Cambodia); Khang-khu Khangkhuh (Mizoram, Manipur India) Senegalia pennata   |   Mimosa (flowers), Thorntrees; Wattles (Australia); Leguminosae and other Senegalia (Formerly Acacia) species]
Acacia Foliage

Native to tropical and subtropical climates worldwide, these shrubs and small trees are well known for wood, medicinals, decoratives, tannin, incense, flavorings and gum arabic (Senegalia senegal) but not particularly as food plants. Acacia is used as a flavoring in various American soft drinks, energy drinks, candies and chewing gums. The foliage and bark of many acacias contain psychoactive alkaloids.   Photo of A. pennata by J.M.Garg distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0.

Feathery leaf shoots of Senegalia pennata (a vine-like climbing tree) are used in omelets, curries, soups and stir fries in Thailand, Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Mizoram and Manipur India.   Details and Cooking.

Beans from the pods of some acacia species are used as food. In Mexico, beans called Guajes or Huajes, are used an a wide variety of ways, raw, cooked, toasted with salt as snacks and ground for fritters or moles.   Details and Cooking

In India and Southeast Asia Black Cutch (Senegalia catechu) seeds are used as a protein source. In India acacia fruits are used to make an alcoholic beverage said to be favored by both people and elephants. Elephants are notorious drunks

Agati   -   [Dok Kae (Thai); So dua (Viet); Agati, Agasti, agase, heta, gaach-munga (India); Bunga turi, Kembang turi (Indonesia); Sesbania grandiflorra (White)   |   Doc sano (Thai); Dien dien gai, Dien thanh gai (Viet); Danchi, Dunchi (India) Sesbania bispinosa (Yellow)]
Agati Flower Buds

Native to Southeast Asia and tropical India, flowers of this tree are used as a vegetable throughout the region. In Thailand flowers are cooked in curries and served raw or steamed with a fish sauce dip. In India and Sri Lanka young pods and leaves are also used. The trees require hot humid growing conditions and are extremely sensitive to frost, so are not grown in California.

The photo specimens, neatly laid out in a foam tray, were purchased from the frozen food cases of a Philippine market in Los Angeles. They were about 2-1/4 inches long on average. They are also available here packed in brine in jars.

A small yellow species, S. bispinosa, is also used in Vietnam and Thailand but is less popular. That species is grown widely in India for non-culinary purposes. A red variety of the larger S. grandiflorra also exists. Details and Cooking.

Alfalfa   -   [Medicago sativa]
Alfalfa Sprouts Alfalfa, which originated in the Near East, is an important crop for animal feed and forage in the U.S. as well as for replenishing nitrogen in soil depleted by other crops. Direct human consumption is pretty much confined to sprouts, popular for inclusion in sandwiches and vegetarian salads. The alfalfa seed is very tiny, so the sprout is tiny as well.

Asian & African Beans   -   [Genus Vigna]

While common beans are from the New World, these beans have been harvested in India since prehistoric times and were probably taken to China from there. A few members of the cowpea species appear to be native to Africa, and were brought to the American South with the slave trade.

Azuki Beans   -   [Azuki, Adzuki (Japan); Xiao Dou (China); Red Mung, Chori (India); Vigna angularis]
Azuki Beans

These small red beans (say "aZOOky") are native to Asia and grown primarily in China, Japan and Thailand. They are most known in the U.S. for their use in Japanese cooking, particularly for sweet bean paste and for sprouting. There is said to be a black variety but I have not yet confirmed that those are not actually Urad beans.

Azuki beans are similar in size and shape to Mung beans but somewhat sweeter. Whole beans should be soaked at least 6 hours before cooking. They will be done after simmering for one hour but remain fairly firm.

Cowpeas   -   [Vigna unguiculata]
Cowpeas are very important crops in the drier areas of the tropics, particularly in Africa and India. They tolerate poor soil and rather dry conditions compared to other beans. They are shade tolerant so can be interplanted with corn and other grain crops. This is very important because their protein profile complements that of grains, the two making up for each other's shortcomings in human nutrition. They also contribute nitrogen to the soil, helping non-legume crops grow better.

Black-eyed Peas   -   [black-eyed bean, Field Peas; Lobiya, Lobia (India); Rongi, Chawli (India); subspecies dekindtiana]
Black-eyed Peas, pods and seeds

Native to Africa, black-eyed peas are now planted worldwide, particularly in India, the U.S. Southern States, the Caribbean and California. They are well known in the U.S. for their use in Southern and Afro-American cooking, having been brought over with the slave trade. They are also very popular in Brazil, which has a strong African influence, also from the slave trade.   Details and Cooking.

Catjang   -   [Oklahoma Game Bird Peas; subspecies cylindrica]
Catjang Plant with Pod

Native to Africa, this perennial shrub bears long crowded pods similar to those of the Crowder Pea. It is now grown in various warm areas of the world, particularly Southeast Asia. In the U.S. it is grown mainly for animal fodder, particularly to support wild game, but elsewhere in the world it is used as human food. It is very high in folate and magnesium, and high in dietary fiber, protein, iron, phosphorus, zinc, copper and manganese.   Photo by Nguyen Thanh Quang distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

Long Beans   -   [Asparagus Bean, Yardlong Bean, Snake Bean; Thua fak yao (Thai); Kacang panjang (Malay); Vali, Eeril (India); Dau gok (Cantonese); Sitaw (Philippine); subspecies sesquipedalis]
Long beans

Unlike it's relative the Black-eyed Pea these beans are grown only for the pod. These pods are much meatier than the black-eye pea pods. Often called Yardlong Beans they actually top out at about 28 inches. The photo specimens are typically 3/8 inch in diameter and the longest was 26 inches, but they are commonly a little smaller. These beans are important to the cuisines of Asia, particularly Southeast Asia, so are widely grown in California. Details and Cooking

Long Bean Leaves   -   [Talbos ng Sitaw (Philippine) sesquipedalis]
Long Bean Vine Tendrels

These are used in the Philippines, where there is a tradition of using many types of greens picked from the back yard garden. These can be used for soups and stir fries, and are very resistant to over cooking. The leaves and tender tips only are used as leaf stems and main stems are far too tough and fibrous to eat. Details and Cooking

Southern Pea   -   [Crowder Pea, subspecies unguiculata] Crowder Peas in Pods

These cowpeas are so crowded in their pod their ends tend to be squared off rather than rounded. They are commonly eaten in the U.S. Southern States but not seen much in the rest of the country.   Photo by Infrogmation distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

Moth Beans, Moth Dal
Moth Beans These very tiny beans and their dal provide an unusual texture and an earthy flavor making them popular in India. 1 cup of dried moth beans will need 1-3/4 cups of soaking water. Soak 6 hours. The Dal is not soaked before cooking. The photo specimens of Moth were typically 0.20 inch long and 0.11 inch wide (5.1 x 2.8 mm), and the Moth Dal was typically 0.19 inch long and 0.06 inch thick (4.8 x 1.5 mm).

Mung Beans   -   [Moong, Green Gram, Yellow Lentils (India); V. radiata]
Mung Beans Whole and Split

This bean apparently originated in Mongolia, where there is still a wild relative, but it saw major cultivation in northwestern India by 4500 years ago. From India it was taken to China and Southeast Asia. These small squarish beans are now widely grown in East Asia and around the world. The dark green beans are most familiar to Americans as the source for the common bean sprout, but they are much more important as dried beans and dal in India. Mung beans are also the bean used to make the transparent bean thread noodles popular in East Asian cooking, as well as bean jelly and many desert dishes.

Pictured are the whole beans and the split and peeled form (dal). Indian markets also often have this bean in split but unpeeled form and sometimes in whole peeled form. The dal is easily recognized because it's more yellow than the dal of similar beans. The photo specimen whole beans were typically 0.25 inch long and 0.15 inch wide (6.4 x 3.8 mm). The Dal was 0.20 inch long and 0.12 inch wide (5.1 x 3.0 mm).   Details and Cooking.

Red Chori   -   [Vigna angularis?]
Red Chori & Dal Most listings equate Red Chori and Azuki Beans but I find these small reddish beans grown primarily in India different enough to list separately. They are lighter in color and less shiny than the Azuki and cook up softer with a more mellow flavor. They are very similar in size and shape to Mung Beans and Urad Beans but are less common and more expensive.

Red chori whole beans and chori dal (peeled and split) are used in India similarly to Mung and Urad beans, Whole beans should be soaked at least 6 hours and will need about 2-1/2 cups of water. One cup dry will yield about 3-1/2 cups soaked. soaked beans will be fully cooked in 45 minutes.

Rice Beans   -   [Vigna umbellata]
Red Rice Beans This bean probably originated in northern Burma, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. It got its name from being planted after the harvest of long season rice varieties to provide a second crop. This usage has declined due to changes in rice cultivation, but today it is being intercropped with corn (maize). This bean seems little known outside the area of cultivation.   Photo by Samuel Wong distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 Generic.

Urad Beans   -   [Black Gram, Black Lentils, White Lentils (India); V. mungo]
Urad Beans

These small black beans, native to India, are the same size and shape as the familiar Mung Bean, and are one of the most important beans/dals in India. In Southern India they are a major component of the very popular idlis (steamed cakes) and dosi (lacy pancakes), and are also used roasted as a seasoning.

Urad beans are sold in three forms, whole (Urad, Black Gram), Split, and split and peeled (Urad Dal, White Lentils). Whole beans take at least a stunning 12 hours of soaking time. 1 cup requires about 2-1/2 cup of water and you'll end up with 3-1/2 cups of soaked beans. Soaked beans will be tender in less than 3/4 hour, unsoaked beans will take about 1-1/4 hours to become tender but may not stay as intact as soaked beans.   Details and Cooking

Bengal Beans - see Chick Peas - Chana
Black Gram - see Urad Beans
Black Gram Dal Urad Beans peeled and split.

Carob Bean   -   [St John's-bread, Locust Bean; Ceratonia siliqua]
Ripe & Unripe Carob Pods

This medium size tree, growing to 50 feet high, is native all around the Mediterranean and as far east as Iran. It is widely cultivated for it's large edible pods (about 6 inches long). When fully ripe, brown and well dried, they are ground and used as a substitute for cocoa powder and chocolate.

The small seeds found within the pods can be ground up and used as a thickener, or, more commonly, the gum (manogalactan - locust bean gum) is extracted and used as a stabilizer in a wide variety of processed foods, including cheeses, ice cream, baked goods and salad dressings. The solids left after extracting the gum are ground into a starch and sugar free flour for use in food products for diabetics. The photo shows unripe and fully ripened pods.   Photo by Osvaldo Gago distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic.

Chana - Chick Peas
Chana Dal - Chick Peas peeled and split.

Chick Peas   -   [Garbanzos (Spanish - from Basque), Ceci (Italy), Chiche (France), Chana / Bengal Gram (India), Cicer arietinum]

Chickpeas, pods, fresh, dried, split Originating probably in southeastern Turkey, these "peas" were taken to India and to the Mediterranean region in prehistoric times. We know they have been cultivated for over 7500 years, and today remain prominent in the cuisines of both regions. Chickpeas require a warm dry climate so in the U.S. they are grown mainly in California and Arizona. They are grown in other parts of the country but yields decline with temperature.Production is increasing rapidly in developing countries, particularly in Western Asia.

The photo shows chickpea flour (besam) in the center and clockwise from the top green and red Bengal gram (Desi type chickpeas), light colored Kabul type chickpeas, fresh Kabul type chickpeas and pods, and Chana Dal (split and peeled Bengal gram.

Chana (Desi type)   -   [Bengal Chickpeas, Kala Chana, Chana Dal, Bengal Gram (India); Shimbra (Ethiopia)]
Desi type Chickpeas

One of the most important crops in India, these chickpeas are closer to the wild chickpeas of southeastern Turkey than are the familiar Mediterranean (Kabuli) type. Desi is the preferred type for growing in hotter regions.

Shown in the photo are red and green varieties along with Chana Dal (split and peeled chana) and Besam or Gram Flour (chickpea flour ground from the dal). Dalia [Pappulu, Bhuna Chana], a roasted peeled and split Bengal Gram is not shown. It looks just like Chana Dal, but is almost powdery in texture and easily ground. Dal is used more than the whole peas because it cooks much faster, important in a fuel poor country. The red peas in the photo were around 1/4 inch in diameter and weighed about 155 to an ounce, the green slightly smaller. Details and Cooking.

Bambai Chana
Bambai / Bombay type: this type is similar to Desi type, including the dark color, but are slightly larger. They are popular all over India, but I haven't seen any marked as such in Southern California.

Ceci Niri
This type is grown only in Puglia, Italy. It is darker than the Desi type, almost black, and about as large as the Kabuli type.

Chickpeas - Kabuli Chana   -   [Garbanzo (Spanish); Kabuli Chana, Safed Chana (India); Ceci (Italy); Chiche (France); Hommes, Hamaz (Arab); Nohud, Lablabi (Turkey)]
Kabuli type Chickpeas

These are the large light colored chickpea so familiar in the Mediterranean region, the Near East and North America. They were not introduced into India until the 18th century and came there through Afghanistan, thus named for the Afghan capital of Kabul.

Kabuli is the preferred type for growing in more temperate climates. The photo shows dried peas on the left, fresh pods top right and freshly shelled peas on the lower right. The dried peas in the photo were about 3/8 inch in diameter and weighed about 50 to an ounce.   Details and Cooking.

Dalia - [Dalia (Gugarati); Pappulu, Bhuna Chana] This is actually Chana Dal roasted in special kilns. It is soft and often eaten as a snack in India, but may be a little chalky for American tastes. It is often crushed fine for use as a thickener in curries and chutneys.

Cluster Beans - Guar   -   [Guar, Guvar, Goruchikkudu (India); Cyamopsis tetragonoloba]
Guar Cluster Beans

This small bean probably originated in India where 80% of the world's supply is grown. They are also grown in California, mostly for guar gum but some are diverted to Indian markets. They are sold when mature but the pods are still green so they can be cooked as a vegetable.

Guar gum, with about 7 times the thickening power of corn starch, is made by grinding mature beans. It is widely used in commercial food processing and for various industrial uses.

This gum became an important component of "Fraking" mix for extracting oil from shale in North America. Demand and price soared, caused a huge boom in guar growing in India. The price got so high, alternatives were found, causing a tremendous deflation in the price and great hardship for guar growers in India.

Cluster Bean - Twisted - see Sataw Bean.

Common Beans   -   [Phaseolus vulgaris]

All these beans, now so well known worldwide, were unknown in Europe, Africa and Asia until European traders brought them from Central and South America.

Anasazi Beans   -   [New Mexico cave beans, Aztec beans, New Mexico appaloosas, Jacob's Cattle beans.]
White/Purple Aztec Beans

These beans may or may not have been grown by the ancient Anasazi in the US Southwest, but the unconfirmed story that they were found in a cave by archaeologists, then sprouted, is pure marketing fantasy - even 50 year old beans won't sprout, never mind 800+ year old beans. In any case, they are a sweet tender bean with a thin skin and good light flavor - a good choice for salads as they absorb dressings well.

They cooks faster than most beans (45 min for presoaked), and are reputed to be only 25% as fart inducing as the related Pinto Beans. Unfortunately they lose their color pattern when cooked, turning to all pink. One cup produces 1-1/2 cup soaked and cooked. The photo specimens were 0.52 inch long by 0.23 inch thick (13.2 x 5.8 mm), available on-line from various sources for about 2016 US $4.50 per pound.

Black Beans   -   [Turtle bean, Frijole Negro]
Black Turtle Beans

Essential to the cooking of Southern Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. Their earthy flavor invites strong seasonings and in Mexico's Yucatan region they are often seasoned with the powerful herb Epezota. The photo specimens were typically 0.38 inches long and 0.24 inch wide (9.7 x 6.1 mm), but some cultivars are a little larger.

Cannellini Beans   -   [White Kidney bean, Fazolia bean; Alubias (Mexico)]
Cannellini Beans

These beans were developed in Argentina, but the huge Italian community in that country soon exported them to Italy, where they are very poplar, especially in Tuscany. Italian markets here in Southern California stock them imported from Italy at absurd prices. They are also grown in North America, where most are canned, but dried are also available, and will be fresher than imported. The photo specimens, 0.66 inch long by 0.33 inch wide (15.7 x 8.4 mm), were from Bob's Red Mill, purchased for 2016 U.S. $5.66, still pretty expensive for dried beans.

Cranberry Beans / Borlotti Beans
Cranberry Beans

This large, plump bean is very popular in Italy. If grown in Italy, they are Barlotti Beans, but many sold as such in Italy are actually Cranberry Beans, because they are imported from North America. They available at absurd prices in Italian markets here in Southern California, but are fresher and cheaper grown in North America. They have a creamy texture and a flavor often compared to chestnuts. The photo specimens, 0.62 inch long by 0.37 inch wide and 0.27 inch thick (16.8 x 9.4 x 6.9 mm), were from Bob's Red Mill, purchased for 2016 U.S. $2.96 per pound.

Dragon Tongue Beans
Dragon Tongue Beans These are a variegated variety of Romano bean. Clearly the photo specimens have been too long on the shelf, so why didn't I wait for fresh ones? This sort of stuff is only put on the shelf when a newly remodeled supermarket opens - to impress the rubes with how much better it is now. After opening week you'll never see them again. Basically, they taste just like green romano beans so why would anyone want to pay three times as much for them? Well, maybe for salads.

Flor de Mayo
Dried brown-purple Flor de Mayo beans These beans, native to Mexico, have a high reputation for both taste and texture. They are variable in color, with most a mottled brown-purple, but others tan or light brown. The photo specimens, purchased from a Latino market in Los Angeles, were typically 0.47 inch long and 0.29 inch wide (11.9 x 7.4 mm).

Great Northern Beans   -   [White Beans]
Great Northern Beans

A medium size (0.5 to 0.6 inch long dried) white bean mildly flavored and reasonably firm. It's used for many North American bean recipes and as a substitute for the smaller Navy Beans in Boston baked beans. These beans are ideal for providing volume and a background for other flavors, but if you want to feature bean flavor use red or pink beans. Pre-soak 8-hrs, cook 1-1/4 hr (2-1/2 hours if not pre-soaked).

Green Beans, round   -   [String beans, Snap beans]
Green Bean Pods, various colors

"Green Beans" aren't always green, as you can see from the photo specimens. The dark purple ones are fine raw in salads but if you are going to cook them don't pay extra for the color - they come out green. The yellow ones do remain yellow though.

Kidney Bean, Red   -   [Rajma (India)]
Red Kidney Beans

This fairly large bean is one of the most popular New World beans all around the world. The photo specimens were sold as "Dark" and "Light", but they get darker and lighter than these. Yes, that's our famous Red Kidney Bean at the top, joining in for a family portrait. Indian markets will have the widest range from very dark to very light. Dried Kidney Beans run about 0.65 inch long by 0.31 inch wide (16.5 x 8.0 mm) Both standard and light are available canned.

One cup of dried beans weighing just under 1/2 pound will weigh 1 pound soaked overnight, which will also be the cooked weight. Cooked volume will be 3 cups. Cooking time for presoaked beans is about 1-1/2 hours if they are less than a year old. Old beans won't cook tender in 8 hours. A 14 ounce can of red kidney beans yields about 8-1/2 ounces of drained beans - equivalent to about 4-1/4 ounces of dried beans.

Kidney Bean, White - see Canellini Beans.

Manteca Beans   -   [Prim Bean, Butter Bean]
Dried Manteca Beans

Long grown in Chile, these beans have been getting a lot of attention for their reported characteristics of being easily digestible and not producing flatulence. A researcher, Dr. Colin Leakey, has developed a hybrid version that can be grown in England, and it is much in the news there (2012). Here in California we can grow the regular ones. The fartless feature is said to be the result of tannins in the seed coat. The photo specimens, purchased at a large farmer's market in Pasadena, California, were 0.47 inch long, 0.40 inch wide and 0.34 inch thick.

Navy Bean   -   [White bean, Boston bean, Pea bean, Haricot blanc, Fagioli]
Dried Navy Beans

This name usually refers to a dried pure white bean about about .312 inch long which is substantially smaller than the Great Northern but similarly mild in flavor. These are the traditional bean for Boston Baked Beans. Navy beans are ideal to provide volume and act as a transport for featured flavors other than the beans (molasses in the case of Boston Beans). If you're featuring bean flavor, use red or pink beans. Pre-soak 6-8 hrs, cook 1 hr (2 hrs if not pre-soaked).

Orca Bean
Dried Orca Beans

This is a pretty new bean on the maket. Unlike many beans with interesting colors and patterns, this one does not completely lose them when cooked, but they are much toned down. The white has become beige and the black dark brown. Watch the cooking time. Presoaked beans that are fairly fresh can be completely cooked in just 30 min. Pre-soak 8 hrs or overnight in lightly salted water. The photo specimens, from Bob's Red Mill, were 0.43 inch long and 0.25 inch wide (11.0 x 6.4 mm). They were purchased from a Yuppie outlet in Los Angeles (Gelendalel) for 2016 US $2.99 per pound.

Peruvian Bean   -   [Canary Bean, Peruano bean, Canaria bean, Mayocoba bean, Azufrado bean]
Dried Peruvian Beans

This medium size bean can easily be told from white beans by it's smooth shiny plumpness and distinctly yellow-greenish cast. It is very popular in southern Mexico and Central America, though also grown in Peru and the United States. It is particularly liked for its creamy texture, plump meatiness and thin skin. It is excellent for refried beans. The photo specimens, purchased from a large Hispanic market in Los Angeles (Burbank) for 2017 US $1.29 / pound were typically 0.55 inch long and 0.31 inch wide (14.0 x 8.0 mm). They need to be soaked 8 hours or overnight in lightly salted water, then simmered about 1/2 hour. Unsoaked they'll need as much as 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours, but the result isn't as nice as they start to break up with loose skins.

Pink Beans
Dried Pink Beans Pink beans taste a lot like Red Beans, but in our tests they cooked a bit faster and broke up a lot more, indicating they have thinner skins, so are ideal for purées and other recipes where the beans will be broken up. Pink beans have a deeper bean flavor than White Beans so whites are better as a neutral background and pink for more intense bean flavor. Presoak 8 hrs, cook 1-1/4 hrs (2-1/2 hrs if not pre-soaked). The photo specimens were typically 0.50 inch long and 0.31 inch wide (12.7 x 8.0 mm).

Pinto Bean
Dried Pinto Beans This bean is most familiar from U.S. Southwest / Mexican cooking - for "refried beans" bean buritos, and the like. When cooked it loses its mottled color and becomes a uniform pinkish color but has good strong bean flavor. Presoak 8 hours - 1 cup beans needs about 1-3/4 cups of water and will yield 2-1/2 cups of soaked beans. The photo specimens were typically 0.48 inch long by 0.34 inch wide (12.2 x 8.6 mm).

Salvadoran Red Beans   -   [Silk Beans; Frijol Rojo de Seda (Spanish)]
Red Silk Beans, fresh and dried
These beans are very popular in El Salvador and also in other Central American countries. They are easily available in most of North America, as Goya distribures them under their brand. The dried beans are small, typically 0.54 inches long, 0.29 inch wide, 0.21 inch thick. They have fairly tough skins, so should be soaked in lightly salted water for at least 8 hours before cooking.

The fresh shell beans in the pod (Frijol de Seda Fresco), on the other hand, are found only in specialty markets when in season. The photo specimens were purchased in late August from a large market in Los Angeles (Burbank) that specializes in Mexican, South American and Central American foods. They sold at 2017 US $2.99 / pound. The pods were typically 5.4 inches long, 0.53 inch wide and 0.35 inch thick. The fresh beans were typically 0.64 inch long, 0.39 inch wide, 0.25 inch thick. Yield of edible beans from 1 pound of pods was 0.5 pounds (50%).

Romano Bean   -   [Italian Flat Bean]
Romano Bean Pods In North America, Romano Beans are almost always sold as a green "snap beans", though yellow and purple varieties also exist. Flavor is a little different from the round and flat string beans but not so much as to prevent substitution - just be careful not to overcook as romanos can become mushy. These beans can, of course, be allowed to mature and dry but there's no point as there are plenty of other average size white beans. As green beans, romanos fetch a premium price. The photo specimens are above average in size, the largest being 11-1/2 inches long, 1 inch wide and weighing just over 1 ounce. Despite the size they were still quite tender.

Coral Trees
Purple Coral Tree Flowers [Genus Erithina of Family Fabaceae]

Coral Trees are found worldwide, They are often planted as decoratives, to replenish nitrogen, to shade other crops, and as support for vanilla bean vines. They are generally quite toxic, containing strong alkaloids, but some parts of some are eaten. Other parts of several are used medicinally. Seeds of some are used as rat poison, and bark as fish poison. The part most eaten is the flower, which is slightly narcotic and sleep inducing. Young leaves and buds are also sometimes eaten, but the beans of only one are edible. These beans now have their own Coral Trees page.

Dal   -   [Dal, Dahl, Daal (India)] Various Dals

"Dal" most often means the split and peeled form of a bean, pea or lentil, but not always, and this ambiguity can make Indian recipes difficult to interpret. The opposite of "dal" is "Sabut", which means whole beans, peas or lentils. "Sabut" usually appears before the name, as in "sabut moong" vs. "moong dal".

Generally, if the recipe calls for soaking for more than an hour before cooking, or cooking for more than an hour, it means the whole unpeeled item (gram). If there is no soaking time called for and the cooking time is less than an hour you can presume the split and peeled form. Splitting and peeling shortens the needed soak and cooking time drastically, makes the flavor more delicate and the dish more refined in texture (no tough skins in it). Pressure cookers are very popular in India, especially for cooking beans, as they shortens the cooking time and reduce the amount of fuel needed.

  • Chana Dal - Chick Peas split and peeled.
  • Chori Dal - peeled and split Chori (Red Chori).
  • Chowli Dal - peeled and split Black-eyed peas (not common).
  • Dhana Dal - not a bean or lentil at all. The familiar round coriander "seed" (which is actually a fruit containing seeds) is husked leaving only the actual seeds, which are then roasted. The resulting product has a unique and attractive flavor. Calling it "dal" was a failed attempt to avoid taxes on spices.
  • Masoor Dal - small salmon colored lentils, peeled but may or may not be split. Interchangeable with Egyptian Lentils (the common grocery store "Red Lentil") which are somewhat larger. Both turn golden yellow when cooked.
  • Matar Dal - Split and peeled dried Yellow Peas.
  • Matar ki Dal - Split and peeled dried Green Peas.
  • Moong Dal is the Mung Bean split and peeled. With the dark green skin gone it is a light yellow-beige color. Moong dal is one of the most used pulses in India.
  • Motor Dal - Bengali for Split and peeled dried Yellow Peas.
  • Toor Dal / Tuvar Dal - Pigeon Peas, peeled and split. Some versions are coated with oil as a preservative. The oil needs to be washed off for use. Toor is one of the most widely used dals in India, especially in the south.
  • Urad Dal is the black Urad Bean split and peeled and is ivory white in color. Also called White Lentil.
  • Val Dal is peeled and split Lablab Beans.

Fava Beans   -   [Broad Bean, Faba Bean, Horse Bean (smaller versions), field bean; Ful Roomy (Egypt); Vicia faba alt Faba sativa]
Fava Beans, Dried, Fresh and Pods

Native to North Africa or Southwest Asia, these were the only beans common in Europe before discovery of the Americas. They are essential to the cuisines of peoples all around the Mediterranean, particularly the Near East and North Africa, and are widely marketed in North America, with fresh increasingly available. Shelled beans are also available frozen, both peeled and unpeeled. Frozen beans are tremendously more economical (and more convenient too) than fresh beans in the pod.

Favas come in a range of sizes, the larger grown for human consumption and the smaller, called "horse beans", mostly for animal feed. The photo specimens are fairly large beans with pods about 7-1/2 inches long. Seeds in the open pod are 1.25 inches long, 0.75 inches across and 0.5 inches thick, but the average bean is smaller. The photo also shows large dried favas both peeled and unpeeled (unpeeled is most common).   Details, Cooking and Health Notes.

Ful Beans   -   [Ful Hamam, Fool (Egypt); Vicia faba alt Faba sativa]
Dried, Soaked & Peeled Ful Beans

These are actually a variety of Fava Bean that is small and round. We break them out separately due to their importance for a single dish, Ful Medamis, practically the "national dish" of Egypt, and popular in surrounding countries as well. These beans are available dried and canned, but soaking your own dried beans gives a much better result. The photo shows soaked beans to the right, dry beans in the center and peeled beans to the left. The peeled ones are used in soups and such, but they aren't the right thing for Ful Medamis. The dried beans are up to 0.50 inches long.   Details, Cooking and Health Notes.

Fenugreek   -   [Methi (Hindi, Urdu, etc.); Shanbalileh (Persia); Hilbeh (Arabic); Utakbo suneli (Georgia); Trigonella foenum-graecum, also Trigonella cerulea]
Fenugreek and Seeds

These tiny aromatic beans are generally listed as a spice, but bean they are. This plant, related to clover, has apparently been cultivated for over 6000 years in the Middle East and was also well known to the ancient Greeks and Egyptians.

In India fenugreek seed is toasted and included in a number of important masalas (spice mixes) and it is also used in the cuisines of the Middle East, Persia and Greece. The fresh green leaves and stems are also used as an herb in these same regions, and dried leaves in Georgia and India.

Fenugreek seed is also considered an important medicinal, particularly for increasing lactation in nursing women.   Details and Cooking.

Garbanzo Beans - Chick Peas


This term is used in India and generally means the whole unpeeled seed of a bean, pea or lentil but is ambiguously used and may mean a peeled and split seed, particularly in the case of "Yellow Gram". Dal is the proper term for the peeled and split form but can also be used ambiguously and may mean the whole unpeeled seed.

Guaje   -   [Jumbay, White Leadtree White Popinac; Guaje (Spanish); Huaxim (Mayan (say "washim")); Huaxcuahuitl (Nahuatl); Phakatin (Thai); Leucaena leucocephala]
Cluster of Guaje Pods

This shrub or small tree (to 65 feet) is native to the Mayan region of southern Mexico and northern Central America (the Yucatán region), but is now naturalized throughout the tropics. In the 1970s and 1980s it was promoted as a "miracle tree" due to its fast growth (more than 20 feet in two to three years, and usefulness as animal fodder, firewood, charcoal, fiber, green manure, erosion control, general biomass, and human food. It is now a serious invasive in some regions. They can grow as far north as Southern California but do not fruit well here.

In the stage these are commonly sold here in California, the pods are about 10 or 11 inches long and just a shade less than 1 inch wide. The beans themselves average about 0.50 inch long and 0.32 inch wide. The pods will be green with speckles on the shade side and a reddish brown on the sunny side. Like most beans, they are slightly toxic when mature, but young beans can be eaten raw. Some describe the taste as "garlicky", but to me, it is reminiscent of Sataw Beans, but not as extreme - perhaps that's why they've caught on in Southeast Asia where sataw beans are eaten. The clusters of flat pods are even similar, except sataw pods are twisted, not straight.   Details and Cooking.

Honey Locust   -   [Thorny Locust; Gleditsia triacanthos]
Unripe Honey Locust Pods

This tree is named for the sweetness of the green pulp of unripe pods. It is native to the entire Mississippi valley drainage region and extends a ways into Texas in the southwest. The unripe pods were used as food by the American Indians, and they can also be brewed into a sort of beer. It is a popular tree to plant in northern climates, like Washington state, but thornless varieties are preferred because the long needle sharp thorns on the trunks of thorny ones are really, really nasty.   Photo by Davidals distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

Horse Gram   -   [Gahat, Kulath, Kulthi (Hindi); Kollu (Tamil); Ulavalu (Telugu) kuthlee, Macrotyloma uniflorum]
Horse Gram

This very small bean is little known in the West but is a major food crop in arid parts of India. It's eaten as whole beans, sprouts and meal, and noted for its distinctive earthy flavor. The name, however, comes from its wide use as fodder for horses and cattle. A common method of use is to boil the gram until done, drain off the liquid for human use and feed most of the drained gram to the livestock. A small amount may go into the recipe with the liquid. Horse gram cooking liquid is said to be useful for dissolving kidney stones but no medical studies seem to be available.

Hyacinth Bean - see Lablab Beans.

Inga   -   Shimbillo; genus Inga of subfamily Mimosoideae, family Fabaceae]

These trees and shrubs are found mostly in the Amazonian region, but some species live in southern Mexico, in several other Central and South American countries, and in the Greater and Lesser Antilles. There are over 300 species, many of which are used as decoratives and shade for coffee plantations, while others are used for food and timber. They are also useful in that, like many other beans, they add nitrogen to the soil.

Ice Cream Bean   -   [Joaquiniquil, Mexican Cuaniquil; Guama, Guaba, Guaba de Bejuco (Spanish); Inga edulis]
Split Ice Cream Bean

This tall tree, to 98 feet, is native to Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, and Columbia. It is used for many purposes by the people of those countries, but is most famous in North America for it's long pods, which contain black seeds embedded in a thick white juicy pulp that tastes somewhat like vanilla ice cream. The natives also use it to make a fermented beverage called cachiri.   Photo by Hellen Perrone contributed to the Public Domain.

Paterna   -   [Giant Ice Cream Bean Inga paterna also Inga preussii and a whole lot of other names]
Split Paterna Beans

This tree, native to Central America, grows to 68 feet or so. Its pods are very large, but not particularly long - up to 18 inches long and 4 inches wide. A family that picks some pods will likely open them and suck off the sweet white aril as with other ice cream beans, but the beans are not discarded. They are cooked and eaten with lime juice or in some other way. The fruit is very perishable, so those that reach North America are just the beans, lightly pickled. They can be eaten as an appetizer directly from the jar.

The photo specimens are the actual beans from the pods. These beans split open at one end and sprout while still in the pod. The center specimen in the photo shows the inside of a bean split in half for pickling, with the smooth depression where the sprout leaves were clearly visible. The largest were about 2-1/2 inches long and 3/4 inch wide. These were purchased from the Central American section of a large Hispanic market in Los Angeles (Burbank) for 2016 US $5.99 for a 32 ounce jar. They were product of Guatemala. Ingred: Inga Paterna Seeds, Water, Salt, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate 0.01%.

Pacay   -   [Peruvian Ice Cream Bean; Inga feuillei]
Split Pacay Bean

This tree, up to 59 feet tall, is native to valleys of the Andean region of northwestern South America, but is also grown in Central America and southern Mexico. Like other "ice cream beans, the sweet white pulp is enjoyed, but young pods can be cooked as a vegetable. The hard black seeds are not eaten, and have often started sprouting in the pod. The pods can be up to 27 inches long.   Photo by Dick Culbert distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v2.0 Generic.

Jicama   -   [Mexican Yam Bean, Saa Got (China), man kaew (Thai), cu san (Viet), sankalu (Hindi), kuzu-imo (Japan), singkamas (Philippine), bangkwang (Malay), Pachyrhizus erosus]
Whole & Cut Jicama

Jicama (say HEE-ka-mah) is one of only a few bean plants where a root tuber is the edible part. Immature bean pods are cooked in some countries but mature pods, beans, leaves and stalks are highly toxic. In the U.S. only the root tubers are available. The photo specimen (6-1/4 inches across, 2-1/2 pounds) is deeply lobed, but they are commonly without lobes.   Details and Cooking.

Erosus came from Mexico, but is now widely grown in Southeast Asia, the Philippines, China and India. The crisp, white, mildly sweet flesh is most commonly just peeled and eaten raw, but in Asia it is often cooked. It retains its crispness but quickly absorbs flavors from sauces and other ingredients.

  • Ahipa   -   [Andean yam bean, Pachyrhizus ahipa]
    This plant has a similar root which is used similarly to Jicama, but it's a shrub rather than a vine. It is little known outside the Andes region and the West Indies where it was introduced.
  • Goitenyo   -   [Amazonian yam bean, Jacatupe, Nupe, Pachyrhizus tuberosus]
    This annual vine produces two or more root tubers up to 10 inches long that are used similarly to Jicama. Unlike Jicama the leaves, pods and beans are also edible. The beans and leaves are particularly high in protein

Kudzu   -   [Pueraria lobata alternately P. montana, P. thunbergiana]
Kudzu vines

Known as "the plant that ate the South", Kudzu is an extremely fast growing bean - as much as 12 inches per day! It was brought from southern Japan to the southeastern U.S. for cattle forage and erosion control - a move universally regretted, as it has taken over whole counties. It smothers all the native vegetation including large trees (it can climb over 90 feet) and is immune to common herbicides, which it seems to think are fertilizer.

Kudzu is edible, the leaves are used as cooked greens, the flowers battered and fried as squash flowers are, and the huge root tubers as root vegetables and powdered as a thickening agent (called Japanese arrowroot). The flowers produce a lot of nectar which is found desirable by bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects. The whole plant can be used to manufacture ethanol and grazing animals are quite fond of the leaves. All in all a very useful plant but currently under-utilized and out of control - Southerners would rather complain about it than eat it.

Kabuli Chana (Kabli Chana) - Chick Peas

Lablab Beans   -   [Val (India); Tonga bean, Papaya bean Poor man bean (Australia), Fiwi bean, Kikuyu bean, Lubia bean (Africa); Bounavista pea (Trinidad); Butter bean (Caribbean); Gallinita (Mexico); Ataque (France); Fuji-mame (Japan); Gerenge (Ethiopia); Helmbohne (Germany); Gueshrangaig (Egypt); Louria (Cyprus); Chapparadavare, Chikkadikai (Kannada), Avari, Mochai (Tamil), Anumulu, Chikkudu (Telugu); Mochakotta (Malayalam); Sem, Ballar (Hindi), Val Papdi (Gujarati); Lablab purpureus alt Dolichos lablab ]

These beans are native to Africa, where they are widely grown. They were carried from there to India and on to Southeast Asia. There is only one species in this genus, but there are a number of cultivars in different shapes and colors. Beans of this type are easy to recognize by the very prominent seed scar on one edge.

These beans are grown for animal fodder, human food and medicinal uses. Young greens can be eaten raw in salads, or cooked as greens. Young pods can also be eaten, generally cut up and cooked. Flowers are eaten raw. Mature beans, depending on variety, can contain a fair amount of cyanide (they'll be bitter), so need fairly long cooking in an open pot to drive it off. The beans are also used in Southeast Asia to make tofu and tempeh.

Hyacinth Bean
Hyacinth Beans This variety obviously gets its name from the bright purple color. It is widely grown both for food and as an ornamental for its brilliant purple flowers and pods (the ones in the photo are a bit faded).

The seeds are shown in several stages of maturing: green, starting to turn color, and purple. The purple ones came from a dried pod, the others from pods like those in the photo. The largest pod was 2-3/4 inches long and 15/16 inch across. The largest green bean was 0.63 inches long and the largest purple was 0.5 inches long, but would get smaller when fully dry.

Val Beans This variety is the most common commercial lablab bean in India. It has white flowers, green pods and light colored seeds. The skin on the beans is quite tough, so is generally peeled, so the most convenient for cooking is the dal, which is already peeled.

The photo shows Val Dal (peeled and split) at the top, whole dried Val, bottom left, fresh beans, bottom right and whole pods, right.

Kodava Val
Kodava Val Beans This is a smaller, darker variety common to the southern Indian state of Karnataka. Because the skin is tough, this variety is often first sprouted, then peeled. This is rather a hassle, but the flavor is very good.

The photo shows Kodava Val sprouted (left) and dried before sprouting (right). In India beans are normally sprouted only as far as is shown, not fully as in China.

Lentils   -   [Lens culinaris]

Probably originating in Turkey and/or Syria, these pulses are smaller than most beans and disk shaped rather than bean shaped. Optical lenses take their name from this shape. Lentils were one of the very first cultivated crops, probably more than 9000 years ago, and are now grown worldwide with varieties in different sizes and colors. They are commonly sold dried: whole, peeled and peeled and split. Cooking times are less than for beans, particularly in dal (peeled and split) form so whole lentils are soaked for are less time than beans and peas, and dal form is often not soaked before cooking. In India small beans of genus Vigna are sometimes called "lentils".

Lentils are high in fiber and protein, and significant sources of folate, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, phosphorus, iron and zinc. The largest grower and exporter of lentils, by a wide margin, is Canada, followed by India. Australia, Turkey and Nepal are also significant growers.

Black Lentils   -   [Beluga lentil]
Black Lentils These tiny lentils are similar to Puy Lentils but are smaller and most are black rather than mottled, though a few mottled ones are likely to be in the batch. They hold their shape well and become shiny black when cooked, thus the name "beluga" after the black caviar. They are particularly used as an ingredient in salads and soups because they stay whole and firm. Cooking time for unsoaked Black Lentils is about 40 minutes. As with many other lentils there are large and small varieties (actually small and really small). The photo specimens were typically 0.14 inch diameter and 0.09 inch thick (3.6 x 2.3 mm).

Egyptian Lentils
Masoor Dal & Red lentils An inexact term but usually referring to either Masoor Dal or Red Lentil, but sometimes to others including Brown Lentils. The photo shows Masoor Dal (left) and Red Lentils (right). The two are pretty much interchangeable in recipes.   Details and Cooking.

French Green Lentils   -   [French style green lentils]
French Green Lentils

These are pretty much the same as Puy Lentils grown outside the Le Puy region, particularly in Canada. To me they appear fresher, and are definitely greener, but have the same mottling These letntils are often used in salads and soups because they stay firm and intact when cooked. Cooking time for unsoaked French Green Lentils is about 40 minutes, and 1/4 cup will yield nearly 1-3/4 cups. The photo specimens were typically 0.18 inch diameter and 0.08 inch thick (4.6 x 2.0 mm). Subst: Black Lentils will work well.

Green Lentils
Common Green Lentils

This is your common lentil in North America, most grown in Canada, (lentils are a cold weather crop). There are three basic sizes, large (Laird type), medium (Richlea type), and small (Eston type). It is most sold whole but also in the peeled and split form which is a medium yellow color and, since Dal is not yet a common word in American English, called "Yellow Lentils". The photo specimens are large to the left, typically 0.25 inch diameter and 0.08 inch thick (6.4 x 2.0 mm), small to the right, typically 0.18 inch diameter and 0.09 inch thick (4.6 x 2.3 mm) with Yellow Lentils in the center, typically 0.18 inch diameter by 0.05 inch thick (4.6 x 1.3 mm). If you pre-soak these whole lentils use 2 cups water to 1 cup lentils and soak for about 4 hours. Hulled and/or split lentils are seldom soaked before cooking.

Masoor / Masoor Dal   -   [Brown Lentil (whole)]
Masoor whole, dal

Similar to the Red Lentil but lighter in color and smaller than some varieties. It is sold whole, peeled and peeled and split (masoor dal). Masoor dal is often cooked mixed with rice because the cooking time is about the same. If a recipe calls for masoor to be soaked at all it probably means whole masoor, otherwise probably dal. Cooked masoor dal will turn a bright yellow color as will red lentils. Dal size is about 0.17 inch (4.3 mm) diameter. Subst: Red Lentils (may be larger and cook a touch longer).   Details and Cooking.

Pardina Lentils   -   [Spanish Brown Lentil]
Pardina Brown Lentils

While grown as a significant crop in Canada and the U.S, .the largest portion of production is exported to Spain where these lentils are popular.   Photo borrowed from Pulse Canada.

Puy Lentils   -   [French green lentil; Verte du Puy (France)]
Puy Lentils

These small gray-green mottled lentils, grown in the volcanic soil of Le Puy, France are DOM in the EU, and AOC in France, so none grown outside the Le Puy region can be called "Puy". They are usually sold at high prices by gourmet outlets. These lentils are often used in salads and soups because they stay firm and intact when cooked. Cooking time for unsoaked Puy Lentils is about 40 minutes. Very similar lentils are grown in North America, particularly Canada, as "French Green Lentils". The photo specimens were typically 0.18 inch diameter and 0.08 inch thick (4.6 x 2.0 mm). Subst: French Green Lentils are the obvious choice, but Black Lentils will also work well.

Red Lentils
Common Red lentils (dal) These lentils are similar to Masoor but can be a bit larger and/or darker in color. The most popular cultivar in the U.S. and Canada is Red Chief (left in photo), up to 0.24 inch (6.1 mm) diameter. The small, darker colored lentils to the right are from Turkey, about 0.17 inch (4.3 mm). These lentils are almost always sold peeled or peeled and split to show off their salmon color. Red Chief is a light tan before peeling. Raw "red lentils" are actually orange, and cooked they will be a bright yellow color, as will masoor dal. Subst: Masoor Dal.   Details and Cooking.

Tarahumara Pinks
A lentil from Mexico with mottled seeds, grown in semi-arid regions.

White Lentils (India) are not lentils at all, but rather the split and peeled Urad Bean

Yellow Lentils are the peeled and split form of the larger types of Green Lentil.

Licorice   -   [Liquorice (UK); Glycyrrhiza glabra (European)   |   G. lepidota (American)   |   G. uralensis (Chinese)   |   G. echinata (Russian)]
Dried Slices of Licorice Root

These plants are used mainly for a flavoring extracted from their roots, which is used in sweets and medicines in the West and as a medicinal in China. This extract is about 50 times as sweet a sucrose. Dried root is used in China and Korea as a recipe ingredient.

American "wild licorice" is less cultivated than the European, but is marketed as a medicinal and as a flavoring. It is often used to sweeten tobacco products.

In excess, licorice can cause high blood pressure and is toxic to the liver, but it seems unlikely normal licorice users could eat enough candy for this toxicity to appear before they are done in by the other ingredients. The photo specimens were purchased from an Asian market in Los Angeles for 2016 US $1.29 for 2 ounces. The roots were about 0.83 inch diameter.

Lima Beans   -   [Butter Beans (UK, US South), Sieva bean, Haba bean, Chad bean, Pallar bean, Burma bean, Duffin bean, Hibbert bean, Java bean, Rangoon bean, Madagascar bean, Paiga, Paigya, Phaseolus lunatus]

Lima beans are so called because Europeans first noticed them in Lima, Peru, but they are now believed to have originated in Guatemala where a wild variety has been found. The bean plants bears flat moderately curved pods with from 2 to 4 seeds per pod. Limas range from the large "Fordhook" variety grown in California to small cyanide laced varieties in the Caribbean. The U.S. and some other countries allow growing only low cyanide beans but many grown in Southeast Asia require thorough cooking to drive off hydrogen cyanide gas.

The pods are often toxic and don't taste good so they are not used for food. Limas are not much used in Europe because the warm growing climate required is not available there. Lima beans are an excellent source of molybdenum, a very good source of manganese and dietary fiber, and a good sources of foliate, protein, potassium, iron, copper, phosphorous, magnesium and thiamin

Lima Bean - Large Seed   -   [P. lunatus var. limensis (formerly P. Limensis)]
Lima Beans: dried, frozen

Possibly originating in Venezuela and brought to the U.S. from Peru, these beans were once the largest agricultural crop in California but have been in decline - undeservedly in my opinion. "Fordhook" is the dominant variety. These beans are widely grown but most production is in California due to ideal weather. Available dried, frozen or canned (previously dried). The photo shows dried and frozen fordhooks with our famous dried red kidney bean for scale. The top center bean was 1.05 inches long, 0.75 inches high and 0.4 inches thick.

Lima Bean - Small Seed - [Sieva bean, Butterbean, Rangooni Val / Flat Val (India), P. lunatus var. lunonnus]
Small Lima Beans: dry, fresh

Probably originating in Guatemala, these were brought to North America in pre-Columbian times and are grown mainly in the U.S. Southern States. The seed is much smaller and flatter than the California Fordhook and may be streaked with red or purple (Christmas, Florida Speckled, Jackson Wonder). There is a variety called "Butter Pea" which is shaped more like a pea than a bean. Locally available fresh.

Butter Bean   -   [Lima Bean, P. lunatus var. lunonnus]
Butter beans

This is actually the same as "Lima Bean - Small Seed" above but a purple - tan mottled variety marketed frozen as "Butter Beans" to differentiate them from the green varieties. The flavor is pretty much the same. The photo specimens were previously frozen and measure from 1/2 inch to 7/8 inches long.

Lima Bean - "Baby"
This is a confused term. These are not actually babies but are fully mature beans. Most are cultivar Henderson or derivatives but there are also dwarf versions of Fordhook (thicker seed). The original Henderson, a small seed lima, was found growing by a roadside in Virginia but most commercial production of "baby limas" is now in California. Henderson derivatives Thorogreen and Thaxter predominate along with some dwarf Fordhooks. Available frozen, dried or canned (previously dried).

Lupine   -   [Genus Lupinus]
This genus of mildly to extremely toxic plants contains an unknown number of species, but well over 200 in any case. Despite bitter, toxic alkaloids in the seed coat, some species have been used for human food for thousands of years. There are two subgenera: Lupinus with 12 species, European and introduced to Australia, and Platycarpos with hundreds of species in the Americas, heavily concentrated in the U.S. Southwest and the Andes mountain regions of South America.

Lupini Beans   -   [Lupinus albus   |   Lupinus luteus]
Lupini Beans

This large bean of Eastern Mediterranean origin has been cultivated since prehistoric times. It was a significant food item all through the Roman Empire, but today it's used mainly as a snack bean. You can find them dried, or in jars prepared with salt and citric acid, in markets serving Southern European communities. They are particularly popular in Portugal.

Making them edible is rather a chore, requiring days of soaking in several changes of salted water to leach out the bitter toxins - much easier to buy them in a jar ready to munch. They are quite firm and just a touch bitter (go really well with beer). Some people strip off the outer skin but I don't bother. The photo shows dried and prepared Lupinis, along with our ever present dried red kidney bean for scale.

Tarwi   -   [Tarhui, Chocho, Altramuz, Andean lupin, South American lupin, Peruvian field lupin, Pearl lupin; Lupinus mutabilis]
Flowering Tarwi Plant

Native to the Andean region of Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru, this Lupin has been used for food in that region for 6000 years that we know of. It was a major food in the region until the Spanish conquest, which brought changes to food practices. It is now regaining attention, particularly as a food for other regions with difficult growing conditions. The seed coat contains bitter, toxic alkaloids, but effort is under way to produce "sweet" varieties that are reliably free of the alkaloids.

The small white beans are very high in protein (40%) and fat (20%), and complements the protein deficiencies of grains, like corn, with which it is often cooked. It is used also in soups, stews and salads. The bitter, toxic alkaloids can be largely removed by soaking for several days in water. These beans have been used commercially, pressed for their edible oil content. As a crop, these plants also renew the nitrogen content of the soil.   Photo by D. Gordon E. Robertson distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

Blue Lupin   -   [narrow-leafed lupin; Lupinus angustifolius]
Flowering Blue Lupine Plant

This is a European species that is now grown extensively in southwest Australia, where about 85% of commercial lupin seeds are now grown. While this is largely for animal fodder, the beans are also harvested for human food. They are used similarly to soybeans, in fermented forms, tofu, and flours for inclusion in breads. They are also eaten sprouted. They are considered to have a great potential as a protein source for processed foods.   Photo by Manuel Luis Gil González distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic.

Mesquite   -   [Genus Prosopis, numerous species, particularly Prosopis glandulosa (Honey Mesquite, Haas)]
Mesquite Pods and Foliage

Mesquite is best known here in the U.S. Southwest as the source of uniquely flavorful charcoal for grilling, and wood chips for smoking meats, but these trees have other food uses as well. The genus is divided into two main sections: "Mesquites" in southern United States and in Mexico; "Algarrobos" in the Central and South American tropics. There is also at least one species in Africa and a few in Asia.

In North America the most notable species is the Honey Mesquite native to most of Mexico and Texas, and significant in the southern parts of California, Arizona and New Mexico. It also grows rather well outside it's native range and is rated by the IUCN as one of the 100 worst invasive species. It has been very important to the Seri people of northwestern Mexico who use the beans at various stages of ripening and the wood for cooking them. Dried beans can be ground into flour for various uses and have been described as having "a rich, caramel and nutty flavor". Because it grows very fast, this is a major species for charcoal for grilling.   Photo by Don A.W. Carlson distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

Peas   -   [Matar (Hindi), Vatana (Gurgarati), Pisum sativum]
Peas probably originated in Turkey and spread right along with neolithic agriculture. They were first brought to the Americas by European explorers. Peas are called "Fresh Peas" when sold fresh, canned or frozen, "Field Peas" when dried and shelled.

Austrian Winter Peas
Austrian Winter Peas A rather small mottled pea grown as a minor crop in Canada. They are a popular ingredient in racing pigeon food, which is where those in the photo came from. Pigeons love peas more than anything. Size dry 100 to 160 miligrams, about 0.22 inch diameter (5.6 mm).

Green Peas   -   [English Peas, Garden Peas; Matar Ki, Matar Ki Dal (India)]
English Peas

English peas were once popular with home gardeners but have been largely abandoned due to low yield in today's smaller gardens, but they are extensively grown and marketed commercially.

As shown in the photo they are sold fresh in the pod, dried, and peeled and split (dal). They are also sold canned (an abomination, but necessary to accurately reproduce Soviet era Russian recipes and American recipes from the Eisenhower era), but the greatest volume is sold fresh frozen, second best to fresh from the pod. Mature fresh English peas are about 0.4 inch diameter and the pods are commonly 4-1/2 to 5 inches long. Yield from a pound of fresh pods is roughly 5.4 ounces (33%). Dried size is about 0.25 inch depending on variety. 1 cup dried needs 2-1/2 cups of water and at least 8 hours of soaking time.

Kala Vatana   -   [Black Peas]
Kala Vatana These peas are called "Vatana" (Gujarati) rather than "Matar" (Hindi) because that's the word for peas in Gujarati and these peas are little known outside the states of Gujarat, Goa and Maharashtra on the west coast of India. Actually "matar" is the Marathi word for peas so perhaps the Maharashtrians consider them an import.

I've had no trouble buying these peas but I haven't been able to find any information on them except recipes so I'm not absolutely sure they belong under P. sativum. In any case, when soaked they taste very much like soaked green peas. These peas are exported as whole dry peas only, do not readily peel or split, and will remain firm no matter how long you cook them. They are often sprouted before cooking so as to be less firm but my samples didn't sprout evenly. Subst: a person very familiar with these peas was happy with Puy Lentils as a substitute.

Maple Peas   -   [Black Peas, Carlin Peas, Brown Badgers]
Maple Peas

These dark brown mottled peas are cooked and eaten in Lancashire county, England and not much anywhere else. They are commonly provided by mobile food vendors at fairs and other events as "Black Peas", sometimes served in cups with a little vinegar. Even in Lancashire they are of uneven availability, mostly in October and November, but are also grown in Canada as a minor crop. Boiled maple peas are considered a top carp bait in England where "catch and release" carp fishing is very popular. The photo specimens, sorted from a bag of racing pigeon food, are about 0.25 inch / 6.4 mm, 240 to 260 mg. NOTE: Wikipedia and sites using info from there say Lancashire Black Peas are the toxic Lathyrus niger which is very wrong.

Marrowfat Peas
Marowfat Peas These olive green peas, somewhat larger than green peas, are cooked up into a lumpy green paste in Northern England and served as "Mushy Peas", often with fish and chips or as part of the snack "Pie and Peas". They may also be served in cups with mint sauce as a snack at fairs and events. These peas are also grown as a minor crop in Canada. Size dry 280 to 400 milligrams.   Photo from Pulse Canada.

Pea Shoots
Pea sprouts are often used in stir fries in China and are now a feature in California cuisine as well. They are available at farmer's markets and in markets serving an Oriental community.

Snap Peas   -   [Sugar Snap, Macrocarpon group]
Snap Peas

These are edible pod peas but thick and round rather than flat as the Snow Pea is. They have become popular not only for their good taste, raw or lightly cooked but with gardeners because edible yield is so much greater than English peas. Just trim off the stem end and the rest is 100% edible. Individual peas are 0.35 to 0.4 inch diameter and the pods are generally about 3 to 3-1/2 inches long. The pod is sweeter than that of the Snow Pea.

Snow Peas   -   [Sugar Pea; Pois mange tout (France); Hé lán dòu, Shih chia wan tou, Ta li wan tou (Mandarin); Sic kap woon dou (Cantonese); No laan tau (Hong Kong); Saya-endo (Japan); Macrocarpon group]
Snow Peas

These edible pod peas are harvested when the pod is still very flat and the seeds very immature. They are most used in stir fry dishes associated with American Chinese cuisine, but less used in China.

Yellow Peas   -   [Canada Peas, Motor, Motor Dal (Bengal); Matar, Matar Dal (Hindi); Pisum sativum typically cultivars like Century, Lenca. Miranda, Paloma]
Yellow Peas, Whole and Split

This pea is a lighter colored variety of the green field pea and tends to be grown in the more northern climates. It is traditional for use in Scandinavian pea soup and in French Canadian pea soup, but for authentic French Canadian soup you must use whole yellow peas, not split. Some report difficulty finding whole peas but I've found them easily in markets serving Indian and Russian communities, though the photo specimens were sorted out of a bag of pigeon food (pigeons love peas more than anything). NOTE: Wikipedia and sites getting their information from Wikipedia list Yellow Peas as toxic Lathyrus aphaca which is wrong - see Yellow Vetchling.

Peanuts / Groundnuts   -   [Genus Arachis   |   Macrolgloma]
We include here three separate genera, mainly because they all produce seed pods on or in the ground and are called "groundnuts" and/or "peanuts".

Peanuts   -   [Earthnuts, Groundnuts, Goober peas, Goobers; Arachis hypogaea]
Peanuts: in shell and out

Probably originating in Paraguay or Bolivia, this bean has been in cultivation for about 7,600 years in Peru. The peanut plant has a unique way of ripening its pods - forcing them underground at an early stage, where they remain until the plant withers and dies. Then they sprout. Peanuts are very nutritious and protective against a number of serious diseases.

Peanuts were carried from South America there to Africa, India and Southeast Asia by European traders and became very popular in all those regions. They were brought to North America from Africa, resulting in the name "goober" (from Bantu nguba) in the American South.   Details and Cooking

Bambara groundnut   -   [Bambara-bean, Congo goober, Earth pea, Ground-bean Vigna subterranea]
Bambara Groundnuts: Pods and Seeds

This legume is native to the warmer subtropics of Sub-Saharan West Africa. It is currently a significant crop in Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, and Democratic Republic of the Congo, and is prioritized as an underutilized crop in Benin. The beans usually come one to a pod, but sometimes two, and are 65% carbohydrate and 18% protein. These plants can grow reliably under adverse soil and weather conditions. They are roasted and salted as a snack, but are also simmered similarly to other beans for soups and stews.   Photo by Ton Rulkens (cropped) distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v2.0 Generic Attribution Required.

Geocarpa Groundnut   -   [Kersting's groundnut, Hausa groundnut; Macrotyloma geocarpum]
Geocarpa Groundnut: Pods and Seeds

Origin of this bean is not known, but is probably within the current growing region. This is West Africa, south from the edge of the Sahara Desert to the Equator. Cultivation is declining because Africans associate it with "old people". Pods commonly hold one seed, but can hold up to three. The seeds are about 3/8 by 1/4 inch and may vary in color from beige to black, depending on cultivar. Leaves are sometimes used in soups. The seeds are used in many ways, similar to how Peanuts are used in Africa.   Photo © W.H.Shuster from PROTA4U (reduced), used under educational fair use.

Hog Peanut   -   [Amphicarpaea bracteata]
Flowering Hog Peanut Vine

This vine is native to moist slopes of eastern North America. It produces both open flowers that are cross pollinated, and closed flowers that are self pollinated. Open flowers produce pointed pods that twist when they dry, ejecting the seeds. The closed flowers produce round pods that may be on the the ground or underground. Both roots and seeds of this plant are edible.   Photo by Fritzflohrreynolds distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

Pigeon Peas   -   [Gandule, Grandul, Alverja (Spanish); Guandu (Portugal); Toor, Tur, Tuvar, Red Gram, Arhar (India); Congo Pea, Gunga Pea, No-eye Pea; Pois d'Angole (France); Cajanus cajan]
Pigeon Peas

Probably originating in India, pigeon peas were established in East Africa thousands of years ago and were brought to the Caribbean with the slave trade. They are now grown in all tropical and semi-tropical regions of the world but until recently were almost unknown in the United States.

Pigeon peas are important in Africa, Caribbean and Central American cuisines, and essential to the cuisines of southern India where Toor Dal is the basic ingredient for sambars and many other dishes. The "red" in Red Gram refers to the color of the flowers. The photo shows oiled dal (peeled and split), dry dal, whole dried peas, whole fresh peas and whole ripe pods. The whole dried are often sprouted before cooking.   Details & Cooking

Rattlebox  -   [Genus Crotalaria of subfamily Faboideae]
This branch of the Faboideae Subfamily contains roughly 400 species, most of which are rather toxic, but a few are used as food. They get their name from their pods, which are mostly empty, but have a few seeds rattling around in them.

Chipilin   -   [Chipilín, Chepil, Longbeak Rattlebox; Crotalaria longirostrata (chepil de hoja ancha - wide leaf chepil)   |   Crotalaria pumila (low rattlebox)]
Chipilin Leaves

Native to Southern Mexico and Central America, this plant produces large but mostly empty pods with loose seeds that rattle in the wind. Neither the pods nor seeds are of culinary interest, just the leaves which have a distinctive, almost resinous flavor. The taste is beany, similar to fenugreek leaves and alfalfa sprouts. In its native region, the leaves are boiled and served as greens. They are also dried and used as an herbal flavor, and are used for flavor and color in tamale dough, soups, omelets and pupusas. Leaves are slightly toxic when raw, so are always cooked.

This plant is feared unnecessarily in North America, because most species in this genus are very toxic to livestock. It is being grown experimentally as a vegetable by the University of Massachusetts, where it is selling well. Seeds and plants are illegal in Hawaii and Australia. The photo specimens, from El Salvador, were purchased from a large Hispanic market in Los Angeles (Burbank) at 2017 US $1.49 for a 1 ounce tray. The longest leaf was 2.2 inches long and 1 inch wide. The extremely thin and delicate leaves come in sets of 3 to a stem, so the two single leaves in the photo were not associated with the stem. The same market also had frozen blocks for 2016 US $6.91 / pound.

Red Gram - see Pigeon Peas.
Red Gram Dal - Pigeon Peas peeled and split.

Runner Beans   -   [Pole beans, Scarlet runner bean, Oregon lima bean; Ayocotl (Nahuatl); Ayocote (Spanish); Gigantes (Greece); Phaseolus coccineus]
Dried Black Runner Beans

Originating in the mountains of Central America, this bean is now popular in Greece and Iraq. In North America it is grown mostly as a decorative vine for its red flowers, and few know it is edible. For some reason it is no longer as commonly used in Latin America as it was in Pre-Columbian times.

Runner beans are perennial vines with edible starchy root tubers, which are still eaten by some Central American Indians. These beans usually have scarlet flowers, but the beans can be many colors. The photo specimens are Ayocote Negro, or giant black bean. They were typically 0.89 inch long, 0.49 inch wide and 0.36 inch thick. The photo includes our ubiquitous red kidney bean for scale.

Santa Rita Mountain Beans   -   [Phaseolus acutifolius]
Two Santa Rita Mountain Beans

These beans are native to Arizona in the United States, and Sonora, Chihuahua, Sinaloa and Nuevo León Mexico. Growing in mountain forests, they have been important to local populations. Whole green pods are eaten as a vegetable when young, and the beans when mature. The beans in the photo are about 0.4 inch wide.   Photo from U.S. Department of Agriculture = Public Domain .

Sataw Bean   -   [Twisted Cluster Bean, Stink Bean, Peteh (Indonesia), Petai (Malaysia), Sa-taw / Sator (Thai), Nejire-fusamame (Japan), Yongchaak, Parkia speciosa]
Shelled Sataw Beans

These bean, about the size and shape of large almonds, grow on large Southeast Asian trees in clusters of long twisted flat pods - about 16 beans per pod. Their taste is often described as "medicinal", but actually it's more like rubber cement - particularly the rubber cement we used to patch inner tubes with back when tires had tubes. They are quite popular in Southern Thailand, Burma, Malaysia and Indonesia where the taste for them has been acquired.

Very young pods are eaten as a vegetable in areas where the trees grow. In northeastern India mature beans are dried for later use and will then be black in color.   Details and Cooking.

Senna   -   [Senna (Formerly Cassia)]
Senna Flowers & Leaves

The photo is of my Gold Medallion tree, Senna leptophylla. These are from southern Brazil and are seen blooming profusely all over Southern California in early Summer. It is quite similar to the Senna siamea of Thailand, the only one used in cuisine, and Thailand is pretty much the only place it is used. In Thailand both leaves and flower buds are used in soups, curries and the like. Leaves and buds are available lightly pickled in jars here in Los Angeles. Young pods and seeds are also said to be edible, but must be boiled and the water discarded. Various parts of this tree are also used medicinally.   Details and Cooking.

Soybeans   -   [Bhatt (India); Soya Bean (UK); Glycine max]

Soybeans, fresh and dried Soybeans are probably native to China and have been important to agriculture there since the earliest times - but not as a food crop. The beans were planted as a fallow field rotation crop to fix nitrogen and restore fertility to the fields, then plowed under. The photo specimens include whole fresh pods, fresh beans (edamame), dried white beans, black beans, and our ever present red kidney bean for scale.

During the Chou Dynasty (1132-246 BCE) techniques were developed to create soy sauce, miso and other soy products detoxified by fermentation. A little later a method was developed to make a soybean cheese from finely ground soybeans by precipitating solids with a salt - the product we know as tofu. Most, (but not all) of the toxins are discarded with the liquid. Fresh soybeans see limited use as appetizers and soybean sprouts see considerable use but not so much as mung bean sprouts.

Contrary to popular belief in the US, Asians eat soy products, including tofu and sprouts, only in moderation and not as a really significant part of their diets. Soybeans themselves have only been eaten in times of famine.

The vast bulk of soybean production is used to produce oil which may be used as cooking oil or for other purposes. This oil is high in polyunsaturates so exposure to heat should be strictly limited. Once the oil has been chemically extracted the solids left are used for animal feed and as the basis for many modern soy products, some of controversial safety.

Tamarind   -   [Indian Date; Tamarindo (Spanish); Asam (Malay), Asem Jawa (Indonesia); Imli, Amli, Chinch (India); Ma-kahm (Thai); Me (Viet); Puli (Tamil, Malay); Tamarindus indica]
Tamarind: Various Forms

Native to tropical Africa and Madagascar, the tamarind tree was known to the ancient Egyptians, and taken to India so long ago even botanists thought it was native there. From India it was introduced to Persia and the Arab world, thus Arabic "tamar hindi" (Indian date). It is now planted throughout the tropics and sub-tropics including Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and southern Florida. It is an important sweet/ sour flavoring ingredient in many cuisines.   Details and Cooking.

Tepary Beans   -   [Pawi, Pavi, Tepari, Escomite, Yori mui, Yorimuni, Yori muni; Phaseolus acutifolius]
Two Tepary Beans

These beans are native to the southwestern United States and Mexico. They are much more drought tolerant than the common beans, and are grown in semi-desert regions from Arizona through Mexico to Costa Rica. Beans can be any color and vary in size, but are usually small - the larger photo specimen is 0.35 inch long. Tepary beans are now also cultivated in a number of African countries, India, Asia and Australia.   Photo from U.S. Department of Agriculture = Public Domain .

Val - see Lablab Beans.

White Lentils - see Urad Beans peeled and split.

Winged Bean   -   [Manila bean, Goa bean, Mauritius bean, Asparagus pea, Four-angled bean, Four-cornered bean, Winged pea; Sigarilas (Philippine); Kacang botol (Malay); Psophocarpus tetragonolobus]
Fresh Winged Bean Pods

This tropical bean may have originated in Madagascar, but is now grown throughout the Asian tropics. The pods are the most common part used for food, but the tuberous roots are also quite popular. New varieties from China are now making it possible to grow these in warm temperate regions. The seeds from mature pods, high in protein and oil, are eaten, but require long cooking to destroy trypsin inhibitors. Flowers and leaves are also edible and quite high in protein.   Details and Cooking

Exotic Varieties

Aila   -   [Tahitian Chestnut, Polynesian Chestnut; Inocarpus fagifer alt Inocarpus edulis]
Aila Flowers

This medium size tree (to 98 feet) is native to Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands of Malaysia, Polynesia and Melanesia. The fruit pods are up to 5 inches long, 4-3/4 inches wide, and 1-5/8 inches thick, containing a kidney bean shaped seed up to 2-3/4 inches long. There is great variability among the islands due to cultivars developed in isolation. The fruit pulp is not edible by humans, and the seed kernels are toxic until well cooked. They may be roasted, boiled or baked. These have been a very important food for natives of the Pacific Islands.   Photo by Tau'olunga distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

Baru   -   [Dipteryx alata]
Baru Fruit on Tree

Native to a corner of Brazil and Bolivia, this medium tree, growing to about 80 feet, bears edible fruit. Both the pulp and the seed kernel (called "almond") within it are edible. The sweet pulp can be eaten raw, but is commonly used to make jams, jellies and liquors. The seed kernels are used in many ways, including in breads, cakes and pestos, and are roasted and salted for snacks. Oil is extracted from the seed kernels for both culinary and cosmetic uses.   Photo by Joao Medeiros distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic.

Butterfly Pea   -   [Blue-pea, Cordofan-pea; Bunga telang (Malay); Clitoria ternatea]
Blue Butterfly Pea Flower

This plant is native to tropical Asia, but has been introduced to Africa, Australia and the Americas. The bean pods, up to 2-3/4 inches long, are edible when young and tender. The flowers are used as a bright blue food coloring, particularly for sweets and rice. The coloring is also used to color beverages bright blue, a blue that turns pink with a few drops of lime juice. In Burma and Thailand, whole flowers are dipped in a light batter and deep fried. The roots have been used medicinally.   Photo by Srini G distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic.

Cassia   -   [genus Cassia] Cassia Flowers & Leaves

APG analysis has split "Cassia" into three chunks: Chamaecrista, Cassia and Senna, though some refer to the whol bunch as "Cassia senso lato". All are under Subfamily Caesalpinioideae, itself divided into Tribes and Subtribes. This is still in flux, so there will be more changes, but most of what we knew as "Cassia" is now under Senna.   Photo of Cassia javanica by Tau'olunga Hugo.arg distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike v3.0.

Elephant Ear Tree   -   [Guanacaste, Caro Caro; Enterolobium cyclocarpum]
Elephant Ear Tree with Fruit

Called "Elephant Ear Tree" from the strange shape of it's seed pods, this tree can grow to 115 feet tall with a very wide spreading canopy. it is native to the Tropical Americas from central Mexico to Brazil, and is often selected to shade coffee plantations. These trees produce massive amounts of pods, and in Mexico they are harvested while still green. The beans are shelled out and boiled for consumption.   Photo by Dick Culbert distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

Gum Arabic Tree   -   [Rfaudraksha; Senegalia senegal (White Acacia)   |   Vachellia seyal (Red Acacia)]
Gum Arabic Resin chunks

This tree, which can grow to about 49 feet high, is native to semi-desert regions of Sub-Saharan Africa, Oman, Pakistan and the west coast of India. These trees produce about 5 seeds per pod, which are dried and used locally for food, but this tree is most noted for producing Gum Arabic, also called Acacia Gum, which is used as a stabilizer in food processing (E414). That from the White Acacia, called locally hashab gum, is considered superior to that of the Red Acacia, called talh gum. During the rainy season the trees exude sap from cuts in the bark, which is gathered after it hardens, about 7 to 10 ounces per tree. Sudan, Chad and Nigeria produce 95% of the world's supply.   Photo by Gixie distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

Jatobá   -   [Guapinol, Algarrobo, Brazilian Cherry, Brazilian Copal, South American Locust, West Indian Locust, Stinking Toe, Old Man's Toe, Stinktoe; Hymenaea courbaril and other Hymenaea species]
Jatoba Seed Pod, opened

This large canopy tree, growing to 100 feet high, is widespread in the Caribbean, Central and South America. It is best known in North America as luxury grade wood flooring, but provided important food for the indigenous peoples of the region. This tree is in the same Subfamily as the Tamarind tree. All Hymenaea species are native to the American tropics, except one species, H. verrucosa that is native to East Africa, differing in having rather warty looking pods.

The hard mature pods contain one or more seeds surrounded by a dry fibrous pulp, but the fibers dissolve readily in water and act as a thickener. The pulp is sweet and its food value is very high, having lots of starch and protein but little water. It can be eaten raw, or powdered to use as an ingredient in baked goods, soups, stews and beverages, including fermented beverages. Some are put off by the smell, but it is not considered offensive by people who eat it regularly. Other species of the tree are similarly used but not as widely.   Photo © d0002 .

Jering   -   [Dogfruit; Jering (Malay); Jengkol (Indonesia); Da nyin thee (Burma); Luk neang (Thai); Archidendron pauciflorum]
Whole and Split Jering Beans

This flowering tree native to Southeast Asia can grow to 85 feet high. It produces pods containing 5 to 7 large black beans containing a soft kernel 1 to 1-1/2 inches across, which is extracted for food. It has a disagreeable odor, causes bad breath, body odor smelling of urine, and sometimes gout, unary obstruction, severe pain and acute kidney failure, mainly in men. Despite all this, these beams are a very popular food in Indonesia, Malaysia, Burma and southern Thailand. It is also reputed to be an effective treatment for diabetes.

Kidney and urinary problems are very erratic and seem unrelated to method of preparation. A person who has eaten them many times without problems can come down with kidney failure the next time. Young, these beans are eaten raw. When older they are used as satay or in curries, including the dry meat curry rendang. Personally, I'm not enthused about trying these, my kidneys are very important for the processing of beer.   Photo by NusHub distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

Kalahari White Bauhinia   -   [Bauhinia petersiana]
White Bauhinia Pods on Tree

This shrub, growing to 6 feet high, is native to drier regions of Sub Saharan Africa including the Kalahari region. The seeds are considered a delicacy in Botswana where they are roasted and used as nuts, and also ground as a coffee substitute. In Botswana, cooking oil is also pressed from the seeds.   Photo from African Plants - A Photo Guide © photographer, permission granted for non-commercial use only.

Monkeypod   -   [Guamúchil, Manilla Tamarind, Madras Thorn, Ebony Blackbead; Camachili (Philippine); Pithecellobium dulce]
Monkeypod Pods on Tree

This tree, native to the Pacific coast of tropical Mexico, Central and South America can grow to almost 50 feet. It has been naturalized in the Caribbean, Florida, Guamas, India, Bengal, the Philippines and is considered an unwelcome invasive in Hawaii. The curled flowers, to nearly 5 inches long produce a curled pod containing black seeds embedded in a sweet pulp. The pods turn pink when ripe and split open. In Mexico the pulp is eaten as an accompaniment to meat. The seeds are also edible, containing 28% protein and 10% oil. They are often pressed to recover the oil.   Photo by B.navez distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

Morama Bean   -   [Camel's Foot, Gemsbuck Beans, Tamani Berry; Braaiboontjie (Afrikaans) Tylosema esculentum]
Dried Morama Bean Pod

This bean is very important in the Kalahari region of southern Africa where it is native. The foliage is based on a large root tuber which can reach a weight of at least 610 pounds. This large root allows the plant to sprout a huge amount of foliage in the spring. The tubers are edible from plants 1 to 2 years old. After that they become astringent and fibrous. The bean pods are about 2-1/2 inches long and contain a single dark brown bean weighing about 0.9 ounces. These beans are very high in both protein and oil. The beans are usually roasted, giving them a taste similar to cashews or chestnuts. Some attempts are being made to grow these beans outside their native region.   Photo by NoodleToo contributed to the Public Domain .

Nam-Nam   -   [Katak Pura; Cynometra cauliflora]
Nam-Nam Bean Pods

This small tree is found most in peninsular Malaysia, but also exists in India and Sri Lanka. It gets the name "nam-nam" from its fruit, about the same size and shape as a popular Malaysian filled pastry of that name. Flowers sprout directly from the main trunks of the tree, so the fruit also is attached directly to the trunks. These fruits are hard shelled pods up to 4 inches long and roughly half moon shaped. As they ripen they turn color from green brown to yellow brown.

The pods contain a single seed, similar in shape to the pod, which is surrounded by yellow, juicy, somewhat sour flesh. This flesh can be eaten fresh or cooked, often with sugar to make sweets. It is also used in fruit salads, pickled as a chutney or used as an ingredient in a sambal (sauce).   Photo by Weeling2828 contributed to the Public Domain .

Prairie Turnip   -   [Tipsin, Teepsenee, Breadroot, Pomme blanche; Psoralea esculenta   |   Little Indian Breadroot; Pediomelum hypogaeum (smaller - found in Texas)]
Flowering Prairie Turnip Plant

Native to the central North American Great Plains, from Manitoba, Canada to Texas, and from Montana Wisconsin, this plant grows from tuberous roots. The roots were gathered wild by various tribes of American Indians and eaten raw or cooked, but most commonly dried for grinding into flour. This flour is still used today as a "secret ingredient" in Indian frybread.

The tubers are nutritious, with a relatively high protein content and plenty of vitamin C, which was important to Plains Indians who ate mostly buffalo in the winter. They were also eaten by European settlers when other foods were in short supply. The plant takes 2 to 4 years to develop a mature tuber, which has discouraged cultivation.   Photo by Matt Lavin distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike v2.0 Generic.

Purple Prairie Clover   -   [Dalea lasiathera]
Flowering Purple Prairie Clover Plant

This plant is native to the Southwest United States. The Zuni people (particularly children) chew the roots as a kind of candy. The flowers are used as a seasoning, crushed and sprinkled into meat stews after cooking.   Photo from Texas A & M University Bioinformatics Working Group © Robert Corbett, permission for educational use only.

Rooibos   -   [Aspalathus linearis   |   Bergtee, Mountain Tea; Cyclopia intermedia and other Honeybush, Heuningbos / Cyclopia species]
Flowering Rooibos Plant

These plants are native to the tip of South Africa. A. linearis is used to make a tea also called Rooibos, or Bush Tea, which has been popular in the region for generations. It is now exported to other countries. It is made by an oxidation process similar to that for regular black tea. C. intermedia is used similarly to make a similar tea which is slightly sweeter. Unlike regular black tea, these can be left steeping for many hours without becoming bitter. Rooibos tea has no caffeine, but is rich in antioxidants, including aspalathin, nothofagin, and flavanols, flavones, flavanones and dihydrochalcones.   Photo by Winfried Bruenken distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic.

Sathon   -   [Millettia utilis   |   Millettia leucantha]
Sathon Plant, Drawing

These trees are found in northern Thailand, Laos and Burma. In northern Thailand the leaves are smashed and boiled in salted water to make a popular sauce used in the region. This developed from earlier medicinal uses of the trees. This sauce is not known to be made or used elsewhere. both trees are used, but M. utilis is said to produce a better tasting sauce.   Drawing of M. leucantha believed copyright expired.

Sweet Peas & Vetchlings   -   [genus Lathyrus]
This genus is mainly noted for decoratives, the most familiar of which is the common Sweet Pea (Lathyrus odoratus). The seeds of most plants in this genus are fairly toxic and should not be eaten, though some are safe in limited amounts. Unripe pods and root tubers of some species can be eaten.

Black Pea   -   [Black Bitter Vetch, Lathyrus niger]
Flowering Black Pea Plant

This plant is NOT the Black Pea eaten at fairs in Lancashire county, England, nor is it the Carlin Peas eaten nearby. It is listed here because Wikipedia mistakenly lists Maple Peas as Lathyrus niger which is wrong, and other sites have copied that information. The pods turn black when mature and the seeds are tiny and should not be eaten as they are fairly high in neurotoxins. The pods turn black as they dry, as does the foliage.   Photo by Fornax contributed to the Public Domain.

Earthnut Pea   -   [Tuberous pea, Tuberous vetchling, Aardaker; Lathyrus tuberosus]
Earthnut Pea Flowers

This plant is native to wet regions of Europe and Western Asia. It has been cultivated as a food crop since at least the 17th century, but is hampered by low yield. The elongated root tubers, from 1-1/2 to 2 inches long, are palatable and nutritious.   Photo by Bogdan Giusca distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

Pink Vetchling   -   [Lathyrus roseus]
Flowering Pink Vetchling Plants

This plant is native to the mountain regions of the Caucasus, particularly Georgia. The recipe I have for it was written in Georgia during the Soviet era and is not very informative, but interpreting the steps given, it is apparently young seed pods that are used. In this case they are simmered in a soup.   Photo "borrowed" from Far Reaches Farm which has this plant for sale.

Fava Santorinis   -   [Lathyrus clymenum]
Vava Santorinis Flowers

This bean, native to the Greek island of Santorini and nearby islands has been cultivated for 3500 years and now has a DOM (Protected Designation of Origin) rating from the European Union. It is adapted to the specific volcanic soil and probably wouldn't grow well elsewhere. It is, however, a very risky crop, wiped out by weather some years, and sold at a high price.

Using a special procedure, the seeds are soaked in water, then boiled with onion and skimmed until a porridge is formed. It is then beaten into a jelly, which is salted and boiled again. It is finally served with chopped onion, olive oil and lemon juice.   Photo by Xemenendura distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

Grass Pea   -   [Khesari (India); Guaya (Ethiopia); Blue sweet pea, Chickling vetch, Indian pea, Indian vetch, White vetch; Almorta / Alverjon (Spain); Cicerchia (Italy); Tsulispira (Georgia); Lathyrus sativus]
Grass Peas

Grass Pea grows well under drought conditions and is sometimes the only food available in parts of Ethiopia, Pakistan, India and Nepal. It is nutritious and high in protein, but contains a neurotoxin that causes paralysis, particularly of the legs. People in affected areas can either die now of starvation or risk living the rest of their lives as cripples, not a comfortable choice.

The neurotoxin is not highly dangerous unless grass pea is a major part of the diet for a period of time (30% to 40% for 2 to 6 months). That is fortunate because in India and Nepal grass pea is often used as a cheap adulterant in pigeon peas (Toor / Tuvar) or Bengal chick peas (Chana). This is often as a dal (peeled and split) which is more difficult to detect than with whole grass peas, or as flour (besan) which is just about impossible to detect. It is certain grass pea will continue to be used as human food because nothing else grows satisfactorily under the same conditions, so scientists are working to breed varieties low in neurotoxins.

Grass pea is a significant crop in the mountainous regions of R. Georgia, especially at altitudes where beans do not grow well. It is often used in soups, but I have a Georgian cookbook that also has recipes for the stems, stripped of leaves and boiled for use as a vegetable.

Grass pea is currently sold and used as food in Italy, in the region around Florence, and in the La Mancha region of Spain. It is not dangerous in these regions because it is a minor food item.   Photo by Andrew Butko distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, Attribution Required.

Heath Pea   -   [Bitter Vetch (not unique); Lathyrus linifolius]
Heath Pea Flowers

Native to Europe and parts of Asia, root tubers of this plant were used as food in the Scottish Highlands when food was scarce, until arrival of the potato. The tubers were dried for future use. Eating them had a noteworthy effect which has caused them to be of great interest today, and attempts are being made to cultivate the plant. The tubers not only provided nutrition, but had a strong appetite suppression effect, which could last for days. If cultivation works out, this plant could be very big in the always profitable weight loss market.   Photo by Meneerke bloem distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

Yellow Vetchling   -   [Yellow Pea, Yellow-flowered Pea, Lathyrus aphaca]
Yellow Vetchling Plant

This plant, native to Southern Europe, Western Asia and North Africa, and invasive in Northern Europe and North America, is not significant for human food, though it may be harvested as animal fodder. It is listed here because Wikipedia mistakenly listed Yellow Peas as Lathyrus aphaca, which is wrong, and other sites have copied this information. This vetchling produces seeds only about 3mm in size and only immature pods should be eaten as mature seeds are fairly high in neurotoxins.   Photo by Leif Stridval distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic.

Tonka Beans   -   [Dipteryx odorata]
Split Tonka Bean Fruit

These beans come from a tree that grows up to 100 feet high. It is native to Central America and is cultivated in Venezuela, Brazil and Colombia, but the second largest producer, after Venezuela, is now Nigeria in Africa. The photo shows a typical fruit with a single seed in its center. Held in a hand, it appears to be about 1-1/2 inches diameter. When mature and dried, the seeds are wrinkled black on the outside and smooth brown inside.

These seeds have an aroma similar to Sweet Woodruff. It was formerly widely used as a vanilla substitute, but is now banned as a food additive in many countries because the aroma comes from Coumarin. This chemical is used to make anticoagulants like warfarin, a prescription drug and rat poison. It is still used in France for perfume and in some deserts and stews. Coumarin itself is not an anticoagulant, just the feed-stock for manufacturing them. The main importer is the United States, where it is used as an aromatic addition to pipe tobacco and other tobacco products.   Photo by i contributed to the Public Domain.

Velvet Tamarind   -   [Gal Siyambala ("Pebble Tamarind" Sri Lanka); Yee, Luk Yee (Thai); Keranji (Malay); Yoryi (Ghana); Tsamian biri, icheku, Awin (Nigeria); Dialium indum]
Pile of Velvet Tamarind Fruit

These fruits have a sweet-sour taste similar to Tamarind, but a little sweeter. The brittle pods are 1 to 2 inches long depending on variety and contain usually one seed, sometimes two. The smaller variety contains pulp that is dry, almost powdery, while the larger has fairly dry but sticky pulp, described as tasting like "3 parts dates, 1 part raisins and 1 part flour". Both varieties are sold as snacks by street vendors.   Photo by distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

Water Mimosa   -   [Water Mimosa, Sensitive Neptunia; Neptunia oleracea]
Water mimosa Flower and Foliage

This is one of the "sensitive plants" which fold up their leaves if touched. Its point of origin is unknown, possibly southern Mexico or northern South America, but it is cultivated as a vegetable in Southeast Asia. It grows on wet banks near streams, or floating on the water where the water is still. Young leaves, tender shoots and pods are eaten raw as a vegetable or used as ingredients in curries and the like in Thailand and Cambodia. The taste is similar to cabbage.   Photo by C T Johansson distributed under license Creative Commons Atribución-CompartirIgual 3.0 Unported.

Yeheb Bush   -   [Cordeauxia edulis]
Yeheb Pods on Shrub

This shrub has long been essential to survival of Somali nomads, and once dominated the flora of much of Somalia and parts of southeast Ethiopia. Today it has been reduced to a few patches due to over-exploitation, war, drought and particularly grazing. It is making some recovery since the government has forbidden grazing in some regions. Some cultivation is being tried. Yellow flowers produce short brown pods containing a single large seed. The seeds are sour fresh or dried, and a little toxic, but after roasting the taste is similar to chestnuts. They are also often boiled, and the sweet water they were boiled in is used as a beverage. Locals sometimes use the leaves for tea.   Photo from Somali Agricultural Technical Group © SATG, under educational fair use.

Polygalaceae - [family Zygophyllaceae]

Kapas   -   [Kapas (Malay); Kiu, Kriu belubiatup, Langir, Mengkudu, Merbatu, Ngilas, Nyalin (Borneo); Xanthophyllum obscurum   |   Xanthophyllum ecarinatum   |   Xanthophyllum stipitatum]
Kapas Tree

This large tree, growing to about 110 feet high, is native to southern Thailand peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo. It appears to be most important in Borneo. It produces dark brown spherical fruits up to 6 inches diameter with a thick rind surrounding a sweet white edible pulp in which are embedded numerous seeds.

X. ecarinatum, native to Borneo, grows to 80 feet and bears orange to brown elliptical fruit 4 inches long. X. stipitatum has a distribution similar to X. obscurum, but grows to 160 feet and bears spherical yellow or orange fruit a little more than 2 inches diameter. Fruits of both these trees have edible pulp. The photo is of the much smaller Xanthophyllum lanceatum, because that's all I could get.   Photo from distributed under license Creative Commons Atribusi-PerkongsianSerupa 3.0 Tidak mudah alih

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