(Dolichos lablab or Lablab purpureus spp. purpureus)
Hyacinth bean, purple hyacinth bean, Egyptian bean, bonavist bean
cowboy bean (frijoles caballeros) (Spanish), dolichos labla/moneghine (Venetian), lablab (North African)
The hyacinth bean originated in tropical Asia or Africa and thrives on heat.
The Dolichos genus comprises of some seventy different kinds of beans. Dol-icho is the old Greek word for “bean”.
This species is a vine that has been cultivated in India since early times ;and, like runner beans, it is cultivated for its ornamental purple flowers and its seedpods.
It has a high protein content, yields well, is easy to harvest, and has the ability to stay green during droughts. The wide, flat pods are two to six inches, long containing between three and six round or oval seeds which are white, red, brown, black, or speckled.
The pods are prepared as a cooked vegetable, and the young leaves are eaten much like spinach.
The dry bean seeds contain toxic amounts of cyanogenic glucosides, and, because of their thick skins, must be thoroughly boiled for a long period of time to become safely edible. Some estimate the time for cooking to be at least eight hours.
Children are especially vulnerable to this toxin. Despite this drastic cooking, the cotyledons of the bean remain unbroken.
The red and white kinds are boiled in their pods and eaten as makata (Palombe). The black kinds are too bitter for this type of cooking and must be boiled three times, after which they are mixed with maize and boiled again to form ngata (Karonga).
The hyacinth bean has a number of different cultivars, all varying in shape and size. Some include: papri or popetti (only the seeds are eaten), seim (has thicker pods that are cut diagonally and used in curries), and valour or val (is also different but used in curries).
The beans of the wild hyacinth plant that grows in hilly areas of Malawi are small and not eaten.