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Sword bean [Canavalia gladiata (Jacq.) DC.]


The situation in Japan and information from the NIAS genebank
Sword bean is not common in Japan. It is called "Nata mame".Sword bean is considered to have been introduced into Japan in the early years of the Edo era, 1600s (Hoshikawa 1981).
Since that time, sword bean has been cultivated on a small scale. The young pod is processed into several kinds of pickles locally called "Fukujin-zuke", "Nuka-zuke" and "Miso-zuke".
It is still difficult to specify the region of domestication of sword bean, although it has been considered to be in tropical Asia.
Suggested wild ancestral form, C.virosa Wight & Arn. is distributed throughout tropical Asia and tropical Africa (Purseglove, 1974).
Sword bean belongs to the subgenus Canavalia in the genus Canavalia.The genus Canavalia consists of 4 genera with 51 species (Smartt 1990).
There are two varieties, i.e., var.gladiata with reddish seed and flower and var.alba with white seed and flower.
Westphal (1974) proposed that jack bean (C.ensiformis (L.) DC.) in the New World and oblique-seeded jack bean (C.plagiospermus Piper) should be treated as a single species together with sword bean. 2n=22.
Sword bean is a perennial leguminous crop mainly cultivated in tropical and warm temperate Asia. It is usually grown as an annual crop.
Leaves are shiny. Pod becomes 30cm long and 5cm wide. It contains 10-14 seeds.Seeds are elliptical and reaches 3cm long.
Sword bean is usually grown as a fodder, green manure or as a cover crop. The young pods and beans are extensively used as vegetables in tropical Asia (Purseglove, 1974).
Hoshikawa,K. 1981. Natamame (Sword bean). in "Shokuyou Sakumotu" (Food Crops). Yoken-do, Tokyo. (in Japanese) pp.547-548.
Purseglove, J.W. 1974. Tropical Crops : Dicotyledons. London : Longman.pp.242-246.
Smartt,J. 1990. Grain Legumes. Cambridge University Press. pp.301-309.
Westphal, E. 1974. Pulses in Ethiopia, their taxonomy and ecological significance. Wageningen: Centre for Agricultural Publishing and Documentation (PUDOC). ( cited from Smartt,1990)