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Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Faboideae
Genus: Lablab
Adans. (1763)
L. purpureus
Binomial name
Lablab purpureus
(L.) Sweet (1826)
Subspecies and varieties[1]
  • Lablab purpureus subsp. bengalensis (Jacq.) Verdc.
  • Lablab purpureus subsp. purpureus
  • Lablab purpureus var. rhomboideus (Schinz) Verdc.
  • Lablab purpureus subsp. uncinatus Verdc.
  • Lablavia D.Don (1834)
  • Dolichos lablab L.
  • Dolichos purpureus L. (1763)
  • Lablab niger Medikus
  • Lablab lablab (L.) Lyons
  • Lablab vulgaris (L.) Savi
  • Vigna aristata Piper
Hyacinth-beans, immature seeds, prepared
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy209 kJ (50 kcal)
9.2 g
0.27 g
2.95 g
Thiamine (B1)
0.056 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.088 mg
Niacin (B3)
0.48 mg
Folate (B9)
47 μg
Vitamin C
5.1 mg
41 mg
0.76 mg
42 mg
0.21 mg
49 mg
262 mg
0.38 mg

Link to USDA Database entry
Cooked, boiled, drained, without salt
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA FoodData Central
Lablab purpureus, illustration from the Japanese agricultural encyclopedia Seikei Zusetsu (1804)

Lablab purpureus is a species of bean in the family Fabaceae. It is native to sub-Saharan Africa and India and it is cultivated throughout the tropics for food.[1][3] English language common names include hyacinth bean,[4] lablab-bean[5] bonavist bean/pea, dolichos bean, seim or sem bean, lablab bean, Egyptian kidney bean, Indian bean, bataw and Australian pea.[6] It is the only species in the monotypic genus Lablab.[3][7]


The plant is variable due to extensive breeding in cultivation, but in general, they are annual or short-lived perennial vines. The wild species is perennial. The thick stems can reach 6 m (20 ft) in length. The leaves are made up of three pointed leaflets, each up to 15 cm (5.9 in) long. They may be hairy on the undersides. The inflorescence is made up of racemes of many flowers. Some cultivars have white flowers, and others may have purplish or blue.[3] The fruit is a legume pod variable in shape, size, and color. It is usually several centimeters long and bright purple to pale green.[8] It contains up to four seeds. Depending on the cultivar, the seeds are white, brown, red, or black, sometimes with a white hilum. Wild plants have mottled seeds. The seed is about a centimeter long.[3]

Subspecific classification[edit]

According to the British biologist and taxonomist Bernard Verdcourt,[9]

there are two cultivated subspecies of Lablab purpureus (L.) Sweet:
  • Lablab purpureus subsp. bengalensis (Jacq.) Verdc. (Syn.: Dolichos bengalensis Jacq., Dolichos lablab subsp. bengalensis (Jacq.) Rivals, Lablab niger subsp. bengalensis (Jacq.) Cuf.)
  • Lablab purpureus subsp. purpureus
in addition to one wild subspecies:
  • Lablab purpureus subsp. uncinatus
of which a special variant with lobed leaflets exists only in Namibia:
  • Lablab purpureus var. rhomboïdeus (Schinz).


The hyacinth bean is an old domesticated pulse and multi-purpose crop.[10][11][12] L. purpureus has been cultivated in India as early as 2500 BC.[13]

Due to seed availability of one forage cultivar (cv. Rongai), it is often grown as forage for livestock[14] and as an ornamental plant.[15] In addition, it is cited both as a medicinal plant and a poisonous plant.[16][17]

The fruit and beans are edible if boiled well with several changes of the water.[17][18] Otherwise, they are toxic due to the presence of cyanogenic glycosides, glycosides that are converted to hydrogen cyanide when consumed. Signs of poisoning include weakness, vomiting, shortness of breath, twitching, stupor, and convulsions.[17] It has been shown that there is a wide range of cyanogenic potential among the varieties.[19]

The leaves are eaten raw or cooked like spinach.[12] The flowers can be eaten raw or steamed. The root can be boiled or baked for food. The seeds are used to make tofu and tempeh.[8]

Food in South Asia[edit]

In Bangladesh and West Bengal, the green pods along with the beans, known as sheem (শিম), are cooked as vegetables or cooked with fish as a curry.

In Gujarat, lablab is called surti papdi.[20]

In Kerala, it is known as amarakka, avara or amara payar (Malayalam: അമര പയർ).[21] The beans as well as the bean pods are used in cooking curries.[22] The bean pods are also used (along with spices) for preparing a stir-fried dish known as thoran.[23]

In Tamil Nadu, it is called avarai or avaraikkaay (Tamil: அவரைக்காய் / அவரை).[24] The entire bean is used in cooking dry curries[25] and in sauces/gravies such as sambar.[26] The seed alone is used in many recipes and is referred to as mochai (Tamil: மொச்சை / மொச்சைக்கொட்டை).[27]

In Maharashtra, dry preparations with green masala are often made out of these green beans (ghevda varieties; Shravan ghevda (French beans), bajirao ghevda, ghevda, walwar, pavta sheng) mostly at the end of monsoon season during fasting festivals of Shravan month.[citation needed]

In Karnataka, the hyacinth bean is made into curry (avarekalu saaru)(Kannada: ಅವರೆಕಾಳು ಸಾರು), salad (avarekaalu usli), added to upma (avrekaalu uppittu), and as a flavoring to Akki rotti. Sometimes the outer peel of the seed is removed and the inner soft part is used for a variety of dishes. This form is called hitakubele avarekalu, which means "pressed (hitaku) hyacinth bean," and a curry known as hitikida avarekaalu saaru is made out of the deskinned beans.[citation needed]

In Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, the bean pods are cut into small pieces and cooked as a spicy curry in the Pongal festival season. Sometimes the outer peel of the seed when tender and soaked overnight is removed and the inner soft part is used for a variety of dishes. This form is called pitakapappu hanupa/anapa, which means "pressed (pitaku) hyacinth bean, and a curry known as pitikina anapaginjala chaaru/pitaka pappu is made from the deskinned beans and eaten along with bajra bread.[citation needed]

Food in Southeast and East Asia[edit]

In Myanmar, lablab beans are used to make a braised Burmese curry hnat (ပဲကြီးနှပ်).[28] They are also crisp-fried and served in Burmese pickled tea leaf salad.

In Huế, Vietnam, hyacinth beans are the main ingredient of the dish chè đậu ván (Hyacinth Bean Sweet Soup).[29]

In China, the seeds are known as Bai Bian Dou. They are usually dried and baked before being used in traditional Chinese herbal remedies to strengthen the spleen, reduce heat and dampness, and promote appetite.[30]

Food tradition in East Africa[edit]

In Kenya, the bean, known as njahe or njahi,[31] is popular among several communities, especially the Kikuyu. Seasons were actually based on it, i.e., the Season of Njahe (Kīmera kīa njahī). It is thought to encourage lactation and has historically been the main dish for breastfeeding mothers.[32] Beans are boiled and mashed with ripe and/or semi-ripe bananas, giving the dish a sweet taste. Today the production is in decline in eastern Africa.[32][33] This is partly attributed to the fact that under colonial rule in Kenya, farmers were forced to give up their local bean in order to produce common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) for export.[34]

Medicinal use[edit]

Taiwanese research found that a carbohydrate-binding protein (i.e. a legume lectin) from lablab beans effectively blocks the infections of influenza viruses and SARS-CoV-2.[35]


Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ a b Lablab purpureus (L.) Sweet. Plants of the World Online. Retrieved 3 September 2023.
  2. ^ Lablab purpureus at Multilingual taxonomic information from the University of Melbourne
  3. ^ a b c d Lablab purpureus. Tropical Forages.
  4. ^ USDA, NRCS (n.d.). "Lablab purpureus". The PLANTS Database ( Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  5. ^ BSBI List 2007 (xls). Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 2015-06-26. Retrieved 2014-10-17.
  6. ^ Lablab purpureus L. (Sweet). University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, India.
  7. ^ Lablab purpureus, general information. Archived 2020-07-15 at the Wayback Machine University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, India.
  8. ^ a b Dolichos lablab. Floridata.
  9. ^ Verdcourt, Bernard (1970). "LablabAdans. In: Studies in the Leguminosae-Papilionoideae for the 'Flora of Tropical East Africa': III". Kew Bulletin. 24 (3): 409–11. JSTOR 4102845.
  10. ^ Smartt, John (1985). "Evolution of grain legumes. II. Old and new world pulses of lesser economic importance". Experimental Agriculture. 21 (3): 1–18. doi:10.1017/S0014479700012205. S2CID 84150245.
  11. ^ Shivashankar, G.; Kulkarni, R. S. (1992). van der Maesen (ed.). Plant Resources of South-East Asia, No. 1, Pulses. Wageningen, The Netherlands: Pudoc. pp. 48–50.
  12. ^ a b "PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa)". Archived from the original on 2016-01-10.
  13. ^ Pearman, Georgina (2005). Prance, Ghillean; Nesbitt, Mark (eds.). The Cultural History of Plants. Routledge. p. 144. ISBN 0415927463.
  14. ^ Lablab purpureus. Archived 2005-01-30 at the Wayback Machine Grassland Species Profiles. Food and Agriculture Organization.
  15. ^ Lablab purpureus. Missouri Botanical Garden.
  16. ^ Lablab purpureus. Plants for a Future. Archived December 13, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ a b c Dolichos lablab (Lablab purpureus). Archived 2007-04-10 at the Wayback Machine Poisonous Plants of North Carolina. North Carolina State University.
  18. ^ "Lablab bean/Indian Bean/Avarakkai". Local Seeds. Retrieved 2020-10-12.
  19. ^ *Guretzki, Sebastian; Papenbrock, Jutta (2014). "Characterization of Lablab purpureus Regarding drought tolerance, trypsin inhibitor activity and cyanogenic potential for selection in breeding programmes". Journal of Agronomy and Crop Science. 200 (1): 24–35. doi:10.1111/jac.12043.
  20. ^ Melvyn Reggie Thomas (Jan 12, 2017). "Olpad farmers revive farming of Surti papdi". The Times of India. Retrieved 2019-11-20.
  21. ^ Nair, Manu (2014-01-01). "papanasini: AMARA PAYAR ( അമര പയർ )". papanasini. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
  22. ^ "Amarapayar Curry (Snowpeas Curry)". Retrieved 2018-11-14.
  23. ^ "Amara Thoran". Nammude Ruchikal. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
  24. ^ "Vegetable names in Tamil and English". Learn Tamil Online. Retrieved 2020-07-17.
  25. ^ Amit, Dassana (2019-02-06). "avarakkai poriyal | avarakkai recipe". Dassana Amit Recipes. Retrieved 2020-07-17.
  26. ^ "Avarakkai Sambar | Broad Beans Sambar | Easy Sambar Recipe". Revi's Foodography. 2015-10-17. Retrieved 2020-07-17.
  27. ^ "Mochai Kottai Kootu Recipe-Field Beans Kootu". Padhuskitchen. 2019-01-10. Retrieved 2020-07-17.
  28. ^ "အိစိမ့်မွှေးပဲကြီးနှပ်". How to Cook (in Burmese). Archived from the original on 2021-01-10. Retrieved 2021-01-08.
  29. ^ Vietnamese Food Team. "Hyacinth Bean Sweet Soup Recipe (Chè Đậu Ván)". Vietnamese Food. Archived from the original on 2 September 2013. Retrieved 30 May 2015.
  30. ^ "Hyacinth bean (bai bian dou)". Acupuncture Today. February 2019. Retrieved 1 February 2019.
  31. ^ "The Njahi Wars: Behind Kenya's Controversial Black Bean". Serious Eats. Retrieved 2021-05-15.
  32. ^ a b Maundu, Patrick M.; Ngugi, G. W.; Kabuye, Christine H. S. (1999). Traditional food plants of Kenya. National Museums of Kenya, English Press, Nairobi, Kenya.
  33. ^ Maass, Brigitte L.; Knox, Maggie R.; Venkatesha, S. C.; Angessa, Tefera Tolera; Ramme, Stefan; Pengelly, Bruce C. (2010). "Lablab purpureus (L.) Sweet – a crop lost for Africa?". Tropical Plant Biology. 3 (3): 123–35. doi:10.1007/s12042-010-9046-1. PMC 2933844. PMID 20835399.
  34. ^ Robertson, Claire C. (1997). "Black, white, and red all over: Beans, women, and agricultural imperialism in twentieth-century Kenya". Agricultural History. 71 (3): 259–99.
  35. ^ Liu, Yo-Min; Shahed-Al-Mahmud, Md.; Chen, Xiaorui; Chen, Ting-Hua; Liao, Kuo-Shiang; Lo, Jennifer M.; Wu, Yi-Min; Ho, Meng-Chiao; Wu, Chung-Yi; Wong, Chi-Huey; Jan, Jia-Tsrong; Ma, Che (2020). "A carbohydrate-binding protein from the edible Lablab beans effectively blocks the infections of influenza viruses and SARS-CoV-2". Cell Reports. CellReports. 32 (6): 108016. doi:10.1016/j.celrep.2020.108016. PMC 7380208. PMID 32755598.

External links[edit]