Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Ornamental beans are edible

Above, Hyacinth bean, Lablab purpureus, growing on the fence of the M'finda Kalunga Community Garden in the strip of Sara D. Roosevelt Park just above Delancey, on the Lower East Side.

I have noticed beans this year. Each year I see something new. They must have been around all this time, but it was their sheer number in Kensington that drew my attention, and made me more curious.

I wondered about the purple pea-ish pods, and have found that they are perfectly edible and have been grown for years between corn rows in Central America. They contain lysine, which corn notoriously (for people dependent on it as a staple) lacks.

Their tender shoots and leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. The dried seed of the beans must be cooked before eating. I mean, why would one eat a hard, dry bean anyway?

Also interesting is that the flowering is triggered by the waning of the year. I had no idea. Explains why so many are in bloom now, when evenings have started to resemble evenings again, when dawn doesn't come just after 5am, and when our thoughts are turning towards autumn leaves.

Below, scarlet runners: Phaseolus coccineus. Bless you! Also edible. Best eaten young because they turn fibrous fast, like we do if we don't stretch. The starchy root is eaten in Central America.


  1. is it too late to plant zinnia seeds outside? I live on long island.
    love your blog.

  2. Oh.....I had no idea. Delicious and fascinating!

  3. I just looked at the Flickr pics of the community garden...what a magical place! Marie, your blog takes me places I'd never get to otherwise. Thanks.

  4. Hi Lily is too late unless you want to experiment with zinnias in the snow :-). They are a late summer bloomer so need to get started takes a week to 10 days for them to germinate, putting you in late September, and after that I'd guess it would be about 6-8 weeks (so now you're in mid November), for blooms, and for this they need longer and longer days while we will be enjoying shorter and shorter and cooler ones.

    Rachel..hmm, me neither.

    Karen, thanks - they're late, of course, from spring last year!

  5. cool beans! i understand ornamental cabbages are edible too. And i know ornamental plums are...lived in a rental house with an ornamental plum out front and once i chased the Japanese beetles off, had enough fruit to make a super batch of plum/orange marmelade.

  6. "I mean, why would one eat a hard, dry bean anyway?"

    This line ^^^ made me laugh out loud.

  7. Nothing is like the green-ness of a fresh bean, pole or bush. I grew some Kentucky Wonder last year and they kept climbing and climbing and flowering and yow! But pickem young or dry the seeds for soaking and cooking.

    I like to imagine that green beans taste to us like leaves taste to Giraffe. Green, fresh.

    Three sisters: Beans, corn, squash grown together.

    Are beans really new to you or are you kidding in a way only a blog can conceal?

  8. QC - yes, brassica, nom :-)

    Fern, it made me laugh too, when I thought about how serious they are that you must cook the dry beans, I

    Frank, mwahahahaha. No, beans aren't new, but the 'Ornamental' ones and their eatingness are! I thought they wuz jus purdy :-)I didn't know they had so much history.

  9. guess I'll have to get me some LABLAB and start my cauldron a boiling:)

  10. Hi...beautiful, beautiful your blog. I like your blog.I am Bangladeshi roof gardener.


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