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Poisonous Lab-Lab Bean Plant is a Traditional Food

Poisonous Lab-Lab Bean Plant is a Traditional Food

In Africa, the poisonous lab-lab bean plant is considered a traditional food.



Lablab plant is simple to establish and easy to manage under harsh living conditions producing high yields and resisting droughts. Lablab plant pods of the culinary type are popular vegetables in Africa, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and elsewhere in the Asian tropics. 

They are eaten like green beans or snow peas. Seeds in India the dried seeds are split like lentils and used in making dhal, the major protein source for millions. They are also sprouted, soaked in water, shelled, boiled, and smashed into a paste, which is fried with spices and used as a condiment.

In Africa, lablab seeds are cooked in any of the ways commonly used for beans: boiled with corn, ground and fried, or added to soups. In Egypt, lablab seeds are sometimes substituted for fava beans in preparing the popular fried bean cake called Ta'ameyya

African cooking lablab plant is a popular food for rural peoples of southern Africa, its pods and seeds supply much of the daily protein. The sprouts are said to compare in flavor and quality with those of mung bean. The leaves and flowers are consumed like spinach beyond being a prolific food producer. 

Its penetrating roots draw nourishment from deep below the surface. In addition, this vigorous legume improves the land’s nitrogen content through the action of the highly active beneficial bacteria residing in nodules on its roots. Having been cultivated since ancient times, lablab plant as food has reached a high degree of development in Africa.

Dolichos lablab plant
Dolichos lablab plant

The family Leguminosae or bean families of plants are an important family of flowering plants that feed the world.


The Dolichos lablab plant is a lesser known member of the bean family and is known by many names; gerenge in Ethiopia and Kikuyu bean in Kenya, lab-lab bean, and poor man's bean. The lab-lab bean is a climbing, warm-season plant that can grow up to 3 feet, and the climbing vines stretching up to 25 feet from the plant.

The lab-lab bean is a poisonous plant native to Tropical Africa. The seeds contain large amounts of vitamins and minerals, but contain tannins and trypsin inhibitors so the bean must be soaked and cooked before the bean is eaten. The acidity from tannins is what causes your mouth to pucker and trypsin is an enzyme involved in the breakdown of proteins during digestion.

In Africa, the lab-lab bean plant is considered a traditional food. The lab-lab bean plant; the leaves and pods are cooked, the flowers are eaten raw or steamed, dried seeds should be boiled in two changes of water before eating since they contain poisonous chemical compounds. 

The fruit and beans are edible if boiled well with several changes of the water. The seeds can be white, cream, pale brown, dark brown, red, black, or mottled depending on the variety.



Common names for the Lablab Bean throughout the world

Agaya
Agni guango ahrua
Amora-guaya
Anataque
Anumulu
Apikak
Ataque
Australian bean
Avarai
Avare
Bannabees
Batao
Batau
Beglau
Bonavis pea
Bonavista bean
Bunabis
Caraota chivata
Chapprada
Chichaso
Cumandiata
Dolichos
Egyptian bean
Fiwi bean
Frijol Chileno
Gallinazo blanco
Gallinita
Gerenga
Gueshrangaig
Habichuela trepadora
Helmbohne
Hyacinth Bean
Indian butter bean
Itab
Kachang kara
Kara-kara
Kashrengeig
Kekara
Kikuyu bean
Lubia bean
Mochai
O-cala
Parda
Pavta
Pegyi
Pin tau
Popat
Poroto bombero
Saeme
Slingerboon
Tonga bean
Tseuk tau
Tua pab
Uri
Val
Waby bean

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