This is the article I wrote for our local magazine The Beacon issue #12

Poor Man’s Bean – The Forgotten Bean

by Ewa Bekiesch, Permaculture Consultant, Designer and Educator

Poor Man’s Bean – also known as Old man beans, Hyacinth beans, Dolichos, Lablab beans, Rongai bean, Fuji mame

I just love easy to grow vegetables and the Poor Man’s Bean is one of them. It is a short-lived perennial and according to a lovely lady I got the seeds from, it has been grown in Australia for a very long time. It has beautiful dark green leaves, the flowers are deep pink and purple and the young pods are pale green. It is very hardy and very forgiving. It will grow happily on a fence or trellis giving you huge crops in exchange. It is a very decorative plant and it can also be grown in a large pot as a beautiful edible ornamental.

There is not much information online about this amazing edible plant and not many places sell the seeds. According to Fairdinkum Seeds, they are very nutritious once cooked with about 30% protein and high levels of Vitamins A, B, C, Potassium, Phosphorus, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium along with a heap of trace elements. The plants themselves have been cultivated for thousands of years and are quite delicious when harvested young, and as they are constantly producing new flowers and tender beans its super easy to just wander down and pick a half a bucket or so. They can be stir fried, steamed, boiled and the mature dried beans have been dried and pounded into cake/breads and baked by many Africa tribes for millennium (fairdinkumseeds).

Our Poor Man’s Bean plant is happily growing over the chook pen outside area for over two years now. The birds love the shade and appreciate the falling dry beans a lot! Our free ranging Guinea Fowls are flying on top of it, help themselves and also enjoy the beans as well.

We use the young pods in all sorts of stir fries. As a side dish, we like to cook the young pods in water and serve with some sesame seeds that have been roasted in butter. Yummy! We use the dry beans as any other dry beans. Lots of delicious dishes are possible! My favorite is with roasted onions and bacon plus some tomato sauce and lots of herbs and spices. Delicious!

The Poor Man’s bean has many benefits and only little needs. However, it has disappeared from many Australian gardens these days and it is classified as a rare plant in Australia. In my opinion, it is an amazing bean to grow and I wouldn’t like to miss it in my garden.

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References: Fair Dinkum Seeds, (Accessed: 16 October 2020)


3 Replies to “Poor Man’s Bean – The Forgotten Bean”

  1. I picked up half a dozen different vegetable type strains of lablab and they are great. The young leaves are also edible and quite nice in stir fries with a pleasant beany taste. Ill have to try the pods soon. I think lablab bean is the best green manure plant around. I grow them densely in my fallow vegetable beds. They grow into huge vigorous plants that have a very positive impact on soil texture, but when you are ready to grow another crop they pull out really easily. The goats love eating them as well.

  2. There is sometimes confusion between lablab and Poor Man’s Bean. Both are botanically Dolichos lablab but one is a cultivated food plant and the other one is a forage crop for animals. It is a bit like cowpea and snake Bean which are botanically identical but snake Bean is much nicer to eat. The forage crop lablab has 2 main cultivars in Australia, Rongai and Highworth. I only know of 3 cultivars of Poor Man’s Bean, one called Pean, Ruby Queen and the other simply called Poor Man’s Bean. In India there are dozens of different types of Poor Man’s Bean, some with white pods or purple pods but they are sadly an illegal import. Confusion has been created by some seed companies selling forage lablab and calling it Poor Man’s Bean.

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