Mucuna pruriens or Velvet Bean is a very fast growing tropical legume with panicles of beautiful purple or white flowers.
It will easily cover any support quite quickly. It is grown as annual.
Remark: the pods and young leaves are covered in small hairs that cause severe itching upon touch, so handle with care.
The plant is an annual, climbing shrub with vines about 15 m long.
The leaves are about 45 cm long, divided into three ovate, acuminate leaves.
The panicles of white or purple butterfly shaped flowers of 5 cm long, are 15-30 cm long.
The pods are 1-2 cm wide large and 5-15 cm long flat bean-like pods. They contain 3-6 black, white or brown seeds of about 1 cm long. Some pods are covered with long orange-red irritant hairs. Other pods are covered with velvet downy hairs, hence the name Velvet bean, velvet bean.
It is used as a famine food but mainly as fodder, fallow in between crops to fertilize the soil since it binds nitrogen. In can also be used as soil cover under another crop. And in some regions, it is used as a substitute for coffee, hence the name Nescafe.
It is also used for medicinal purposes, as in the Ayurveda.
Though edible, it requires long soaking with refreshing of the water while soaking and cooking as it is toxic.
Carpopogon atropurpureum, Carpopogon pruriens, Dolichos pruriens, Labradia pruriens, Mucuna Atropurpurea, Mucuna axillaris, Mucuna bernieriana, Mucuna cochinchinensis, Mucuna esquirolii, Mucuna minima, Mucuna nivea, Mucuna pruriens, Mucuna prurita, Stizolobium atropurpureum, Stizolobium pruritum
Bengal Bean, Buffalo Bean, Cowage, Cowhage, Cowitch, Hell Fire Bean, Itchy Bean, Mauritius Bean, Nescafe, Pica Pica, Poil, Purple Jade Vine, Velvet Bean
Mucuna: from the Tupi (Amazonian tribe) word mucunán
Pruriens: from the Latin word prurire (to itch)
Africa, India, the Caribbean
USDA zone 9
Can be grown in a large variety of soils
As this is a tree climber, the foot of the plant can stand in shade or semi-shade, the upper parts in full sun.
- soak for 1-2 days in tepid water, change the water once or twice a day
- sow in light soil
- sow the beans together in 1 pot
- 20-30 °C
- transplant the seedlings as they germinate, leave the others in case they germinate later
- transplant in individual pot if the weather is still too cold
- plant in the garden when the weather is warm enough (probably end of May, beginning of June)
- this plant needs a sturdy support to climb as it grows fast and big: tree, sturdy fence…