Velvet bean is a tropical legume grown in Africa, India and the Caribbean. The plant produces serious itchiness on contact, especially the young leaves and seed pods. The German name ‘Juckbohne’ means ‘itch bean’.
Velvet bean is used as a forage crop and as a green manure crop. The plant can fix nitrogen (just like other legumes) and thus increases the fertility of the soil. In the tropics it is often grown as a fodder crop.
The plant is toxic but if soaked for a long time or by changing water several times during cooking, the fresh shoots and beans can be made edible.
Velvet bean is also know for its medicinal properties. Seeds and plant extracts are used as an aphrodisiac, to treat snake bites, and as an antidepressant.
Basic information and facts
Velvet bean originates from southern Asia and Malaysia.
Velvet bean is grown throughout the tropics.
Annual, biennial, or perennial:
It’s an annual plant.
The plant is a climbing shrub with long vines. Young plants are covered with fuzzy hairs, which cause itching. Older plants are almost free of hairs.
Flowers of velvet bean have a white, lavender or purple color.
In young plants, both sides of the leaves are covered with hairs.
The seed pods of velvet bean are about 10 cm long. The pods are covered in loose hairs that can cause serious itching of the skin. The pod contains up to seven ellipsoids seeds which are 1 to 2 cm long. The color of the seeds varies with the variety.
Climate and weather:
It’s a tropical plant which requires a hot humid climate.
Velvet bean has climbing vines which can be up to 15 meters long.
Grown from seed.
Velvet bean is used as a forage and fodder crop and as a green manure. The plant is a legume and can fix nitrogen which increases the soil fertility
The plant is toxic for humans but with special preparation (long soaking and changing water several times during cooking) it can be used for human consumption.
Velvet bean has medicinal properties, for eaxample as an aphrodisiac, as a treatment for snake bites, and as antidepressant.