|Traditional Food Plants of Kenya (National Museum of Kenya, 1999, 288 p.)|
syn: Dolichos lablab L., D. purpureus L., Lablab niger Medic., L. vulgaris Savi
Borana: marage Chonyi: mpupu, pupu (fruit) Embu: njavi, njabi nzavi English: hyacinth bean, bonavist bean, lablab bean Giriama: mpupu Kamba: mbumbu, ngiima, nzavi Kikuyu: njahi Luhya (Bukusu): njawu, sikandakanda Luhya (maragoli): ihranda Maa: ormbombo, mbombo, irpombo Mem: njabi, ncabi Nandi: mangwanyet Samburu: lagat Sanya: pupu Swahili: mfiwi, fiwi (fruit) Tharaka: njavi
Description: A climbing perennial with thick foliage. LEAVES: With 3 leaflets, to 15 cm long. FLOWERS: Of varying colours, borne on long-stalked erect inflorescences arising from the leaf axils. Purple or cream with purple tinge. The wild subspecies uncinatus has a white keel and the standard and wing purple to violet. FRUIT: A pod variable in shape and size: broad and short (to 4 cm long by 1.5 cm wide) in ssp. uncinatus; a bit larger (up to 10 cm long) but the same shape in ssp. purpureus; long (up to 14 cm) and slender, resembling kidney bean in ssp. bengalensis of Indian origin. Seeds pink, reddish brown to black, white, or mottled red with a white hilum and a long aril.
Ecology: Cultivated mainly in the Coast, Central, Eastern and Rift Valley (central part) Provinces, 0-2,500 m. Also in the rest of Africa and in Asia. In the wild state, found climbing on other plants at the edges of riverine forest and in mountain forest. Cultivated in various types of soils. Propped up or planted with other less leafy plants where it can get support. Rainfall: 600-1,200 mm. Zones II-V.
Uses: FOOD: Dry or green beans are cooked and eaten (Kikuyu, Kamba, Maasai, Meru, Embu, Nandi), often being soaked before cooking. Beans cooked for 2-3 hours, water used to boil seeds may or may not be poured out. The beans can be cooked with vegetables or maize (Kamba, Kikuyu) or mashed with potatoes (Kikuyu). Seeds may also be boiled, fried and used as mboga (relish) with ugali. An important traditional food among the Kikuyu, almost always served to recuperating mothers after childbirth (said to increase mother's milk), important visitors (such as in-laws visiting a child named after them) and during important ceremonies. Leaves occasionally used as a vegetable in Central and Coast Provinces but a good knowledge of preparation is needed.
OTHER: A fodder crop.
Season: First crop harvested after 3½ months (at about the same time as maize). Continues to bear a crop so long as there is water in the ground, hence preferably planted in moist places.
Management: Propagated by seed. Said to be planted with other crops but preferably at the edge of cropland. Staked or planted near hedges to climb on. Pods are normally harvested individually as they mature. The same plant may produce a crop for several years.
Remarks: This bean is very variable with at least three subspecies in Kenya:
· ssp. uncinatus Verdc, is the wild form of local origin but also cultivated. Distribution: Throughout tropical Africa and south to South Africa.
· ssp. purpureus is the form widely cultivated throughout the tropics.
· ssp. bengalensis (Jacq.) Verdc. is a widely cultivated variety of Asian origin with long pods. This form is also grown in Kenya.
All the varieties are still grown in Kenya and are distinguished by the shape and colour of the seeds and pods. Seeds may be black, brown, white, speckled red or red. In Kitui the first two are referred to as mbumbu while the last three are known as ngelenge. The taxonomy of these last three with reference to the others is still dubious. Seeds of the red type may change to being poisonous after a few generations, a property which some seeds are said to have acquired at the middle of the century. To be on the safe side, throw away the first two rounds of the water used for boiling.
These are very drought-resistant pulses. Nowadays less commonly grown and the population is barely maintained by spontaneous growth in cropland or its edges. The consumption and cultivation of this bean have diminished over the years, and its place has been taken by kidney beans, peas and cowpeas. It is, however, a drought-resistant plant that should not be forgotten, especially in drier areas.