A common sight all across our winter landscape is the sight of the Hyacinth beans/Dolichos lablab, in bloom. Traditionally, in the east, the seeds are sown at the end of July during the rainy season. By late November these welcoming sights are seen everywhere. Also known as Egyptian bean and Indian bean, these beans are an ancient legume crop. According to some websites the origin is tropical Africa and to some, it’s Asia.
It’s grown as a food crop throughout the tropics, for both human consumption and animal fodder. For us, the cooler season would be incomplete without including the Hyacinth beans in our diet. The photo above was taken in a village near a river where we had gone on a picnic in January.
Doesn’t the bloom remind you of a pea blossom? Both belong to the same family–Fabaceae. The typical fruit of these plants are called legumes. I caught the one above trailing off the trellis in my mother’s garden. I’ve read read that the vine is grown as an ornamental and the blooms attract butterflies and hummingbirds (in the US) but for us it’s too much of a food thing and usually grown in the back garden.
Although all parts of the plant is said to be edible we have the tender beans, sometimes the young leaves are cooked as a vegetable dish, and of course, the seeds. It’s only when I read up on the Hyacinth beans for this post, I came across the fact that the beans are poisonous if not cooked properly. This is due to high concentrations of cyanogenic glucosides present in the seeds. So the seeds need to be cooked in several changes of water. For someone who has had the beans year after year, this was news indeed!
Some varieties have white blooms. And the leaves are greener too! The vines threaten to spill over. They’re fast growing and generally trail off to adjoining support of any form if not trained or controlled. Ever since I thought about a bean post, I’ve been photographing the different varieties. Pictured below are some that are regularly sold in the markets.
A favourite bean dish of mine is to use all these ingredients with smoked pork and dry fish. A perfect way to have steaming hot rice on a winter day!
Although I’ve used serrated coriander for the garnish, the best garnish for recipes which include dry fish is the kind of basil pictured above. This photo was taken in September when my potted herb was blooming. It attracted a great deal of pollinators including this skipper, the Common Dart.
Our short-lived winter will soon be over. And as different vegetables will take over the season, the beans will be forgotten. Only to come back in its own time, some time in November, when these sights will be seen again all across the winter landscape.