612 Dolichos lablabCommon Names: hyacinth bean, lablab bean, bonavista bean, Egyptian bean Family: Fabaceae (bean Family)
Lablab bean is a twining vine with leaflets in threes and showy bright purple flowers and pods. In frostfree areas the vine becomes woody and can reach more than 30 ft (9 m) in length. In zones 9 and colder, the vine remains herbaceous and rarely exceeds 10 ft (3 m). The leaflets are purplish green, broad oval or triangular in shape and 3-6 in (7.6-15.2 cm) long. The flowers are pealike, a rich, brilliant purple and arranged in loose clusters on long stems that extend above the foliage. The pods are just as showy as the flowers. They are flat and curved, about 3 in (7.6 cm) long and bright purple. The beans inside are dark colored with a conspicuous white hilum, the elongate scar on the edge of the bean where it was attached to the inside of the pod.
Several cultivars have been selected including some with white flowers and pale green pods; some with red flowers; some with long, thin cylindrical pods; and some dwarf forms. Some cultivars are grown primarily for the pods, some for the seeds, and some for roots. Some are day length neutral and some flower mainly as day length
It is believed that Dolichos lablab, the lablab bean, originated in Asia, but it is now grown for food throughout much of the world. It is a very popular plant in China where it has been grown on fences and trellises in back yards for centuries. Lablab bean is an important food source in tropical Africa and Asia. Lablab has escaped cultivation and established in many areas, including southern Florida.
CultureEasy to grow in poor, acidic to alkaline soils. Lablab beans take 90-150 days from sowing to maturity. Immature pods can be picked sooner. Light: Full sun for best growth. Moisture: Requires well drained soil. Once established, lablab bean is drought tolerant, more so than most beans. Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 - 11. Lablab bean is a short lived perennial in frostfree regions. It is grown as an annual elsewhere. Propagation: By seed.
In the United States, lablab bean usually is grown as an ornamental. (I for one don't care for the strong beany smell when they are cooking.) In Asia and Africa lablab is grown for food. Lablab bean is an excellent nitrogen fixer and is sometimes grown as a cover crop or for livestock fodder.
Young immature pods are cooked and eaten like green beans (older pods may need to be de-stringed). They have a strong, beany flavor and some people like to mix them with other beans or green vegetables. Unfortunately, the purple color disappears during cooking. Young leaves are eaten raw in salads and older leaves are cooked like spinach. Flowers are eaten raw or steamed. The large starchy root tubers can be boiled and baked. The immature seeds can be boiled and eaten like any shelly bean. Dried seeds should be boiled in two changes of water before eating since they contain toxic levels of cyanogenic glucosides. In Asia the mature seeds are made into tofu and fermented for tempeh. They are also used as bean sprouts.
Lablab bean is a good choice for a quick screen on a trellis or fence. It grows fast, has beautiful, fragrant flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds, and it even produces edible leaves, flowers, pods, seeds and roots. Each summer I train a vine or two of lablab up the clothes line pole just for the color and fragrance.
Dry seeds should be well cooked in two changes of water before eating. Raw dry seeds are poisonous and can cause vomiting, labored breathing, and even convulsions and unconsciousness.
Steve Christman 1/7/99; updated 8/17/03, 6/18/04, 10/12/08, 1/31/18