Purple Hyacinth Bean Vine: Easy to Grow Edible Beans

In addition to its beautiful, pinkish-purple blossoms, purple hyacinth bean plants produce reddish-purple pods about the same size as lima bean pods. The young shoots or the blooms can be eaten as salad extras or edible garnishes, but the mature or dried beans are toxic.

Hyacinth bean vine plant profile

Scientific nameDolichos lablab or Lablab purpurea or Lablab purpureus
FamilyFabaceae (legume family)
Plant typeAnnual

Common names include:

  • Purple hyacinth bean
  • Tonga bean
  • Tobacco vine
  • Hyacinth bean
  • Lablab-bean bonavist bean/pea
  • Dolichos bean
  • Seim or sem bean
  • Lablab bean
  • Egyptian kidney bean
  • Indian bean
  • Bataw
  • Australian pea

A fast-growing climber, this plant can grow up to 15 feet tall and should be planted near vertical support, such as a trellis, fence, or wall. Among the benefits of the hyacinth bean vine is that it attracts hummingbirds, which are essential for pollination.

Hyacinth bean vines have exotic and tropical-looking blooms of amethyst and violet on purple stems throughout the summer months.

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Against the dense canopy of twining foliage, the richly hued flowers mature into flat, shiny pods measuring 3 inches in diameter.

Where does hyacinth bean grow?

A native of Africa, the plant with purple flowers can be grown in any zone with a warm climate. This plant grows as a perennial in USDA Hardiness Zones 10 – 11.

The purple hyacinth bean vine thrives in hot weather. As an annual, it is grown in colder climates from seeds planted in the spring.

This heirloom vine was grown on Thomas Jefferson’s farm, Monticello.

Are hyacinth beans poisonous?

When consumed raw and in large quantities, hyacinth beans may be unsafe. 

In raw form, hyacinth beans contain certain chemicals, known as cyanogenic glycosides, which have the potential to cause poisoning.

Are purple hyacinth beans edible?

The young shoots or the blooms of this flowering vine can be eaten as salad extras or edible garnishes, but the mature or dried beans are toxic. 

Purple hyacinth beans
Purple hyacinth beans

Can you eat hyacinth beans raw?

Hyacinth beans are toxic when raw, like lima beans, red kidney beans, and many other types of beans. To ensure safety, all beans should be adequately cooked before consumption.

You should keep pets away from hyacinth beans if they tend to chew, gnaw, or munch on plants.

Do hyacinth beans taste good?

Purple hyacinth bean vine seed pods have a taste similar to green beans.

Bean pods that are young are considered tasty, similar to sweet peas, and are eaten like other beans or as salads, though they need to be cooked longer than normal beans.

Can you eat hyacinth bean flowers?

Yes. The whole plant is edible, including the pods, beans, leaves, vines, and even the flowers. 

Even though purple hyacinth bean flowers are considered edible in many parts of the world, they are primarily ornamentals. 

How to cook purple hyacinth beans

Blanching the beans is the best method of cooking them. To blanch, bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and add a generous amount of salt (at least 14 cups of salt per 2 quarts of water).

After preparing the beans and boiling the water, set the timer for three minutes and place the beans in the water.

Hycinth bean vine
Hycinth bean vine

How to grow and care for purple hyacinth beans

The hyacinth bean vine is an excellent choice if you are looking for an annual flowering vine that grows rapidly.

In addition to being easy to grow, hyacinth beans bloom from summer to fall and are available in various colors, including purple and white. 

As soon as the threat of frost has passed, seeds can be sown directly outdoors, though it is also possible to start seeds indoors several weeks before the weather warms up.

Ideally, transplants should be planted at a small size. If you want to have purple hyacinth beans in bloom by midsummer, plant them late in the spring or early in the summer.

Moist, well-drained soil is ideal for the growth of this plant. Once planted, these plants require very little maintenance.

For best results, ensure that transplants and seedlings receive regular watering.

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