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Hyacinth bean [Dolichos lablab L. ]


The situation in Japan and information from the NIAS genebank
The hyacinth bean is called "Fuji mame". It is considered to have been introduced into Japan from China in 1654 by the Chinese famous Zen monk "Ingen" (Hoshikawa 1981). Hence, this legume is sometimes called "Ingen" in Kansai district (the Central western parts of Japan).
Hyacinth bean is sporadically cultivated in the warm western part of Japan. The young pods are used as vegetables.
Hyacinth bean has been regarded as a species of tropical Asian origin, since it is most widely cultivated there (Purseglove, 1974).
However, Verdcourt (1970) has postulated an East African origin, based on the distribution of the wild ancestral form, L.purpureus subsp.uncinatus.
The biosystematics of hyacinth bean and its relatives have recently been reviewed and revised (Smartt, 1990). Formerly, the hyacinth bean was included in the genus Dolichos following Linneus.
Verdcourt (1980)assigned the hyacinth bean to the monotypic genus Lablab. Three subspecies are recognized in L.purpureus (Verdcourt, 1970).
Subsp.uncinatus is the wild ancestral form distributed mainly in East Africa. Pod size of subsp.uncinatus is about 40mm x15mm.
Subsp.purpureus includes a cultivated form with larger pods, 100mm x 40mm. Subsp.bengalensis has characteristically longer pods than other subspecies, up to 140mm x 10-25mm. 2n=22,24.
Hyacinth bean is a herbaceous perennial herb often grown as an annual crop (Purseglove, 1974). It grows to 1.5-6m, usually twining, but bushy forms are also said to occur.
Leaves are trifoliate. Flower color is either purple or white. Seeds are variable in color, including white, cream, reddish, brown or black and variously mottled. Hilum is white and raised prominently, extending one-third of the distance around seed. Weight of 100 seeds is 25-50g.
The young pods and tender beans are used as vegetables mainly in India and also in tropical and warm temperate Asia (Purseglove, 1974).
The dry seeds are consumed as dhal in India. It is also grown as a fodder or cover crop.
Hoshikawa,K. 1981. Fuji mame (Hyacinth bean). in "Shokuyou Sakumotu" (Food Crops). Yoken-do, Tokyo. (in Japanese) pp.540-542.
Purseglove, J.W. 1974. Lablab niger, In "Tropical Crops : Dicotyledons." London : Longman. pp.273-276.
Smartt,J. 1990. The hyacinth bean. In "Grain Legumes" Cambridge University Press. pp.294-298.
Verdcourt,B. 1970. Studies in the Leguminosae - Papilionoideae for the Flora of Tropical East Africa" : III. Kew Bulletin 24 : pp.379-447. (cited from Smartt, 1990)
Verdcourt,B. 1980. The classification of Dolichos L. emend. Verdc., Lablab Adans., Phaseolus L., Vigna Savi and their allies. In "Advances in Legume Science" eds.R.J.Summerfield and A.H.Bunting. Kew Royal Botanic Gardens. pp.45-48.