Velvet Bean

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

velvet bean a name applied to a large range of hairy-podded leguminous plants, of the genus Mucuna, which are native to tropical Africa and Asia and parts of Australia. Many are vines which climb high into the rainforest canopy and bear large flowers. Where they are grown, this is mainly for animal fodder, e.g. M. deeringiana as the Florida or Georgia velvet bean of the USA; but several species have been used for human consumption in Africa and Asia. These include M. nivea in India, about which Watt (1889–96) commented that the large, tender pods were valued as a vegetable by the Hindus and that the eminent botanist Roxburgh had said that they were, ‘when dressed like French beans, a most excellent vegetable for European tables’.