Ingredient Spotlight: Hyacinth Beans

We usually think of peas and beans as spring and summer foods but we spotted these lovely purple-edged pods at the Atwater Village farmers' market this week. Have you ever encountered them?

Those familiar with Filipino cooking might know these as bataw, while the English common name is hyacinth beans (Lablab purpureus). They are also found in cuisines of Vietnam, India, Japan, and East Africa. The vining plant has brilliant purple flowers and is often grown as an ornamental.

While these pods were green with purple edges, other variations are completely purple. We were advised to steam or stir-fry them, and they tasted very much like green beans. They are also used in stews and curries.

We did read that these may be poisonous if eaten in large quantities, as they contain cyanogenic glycoside (like lima beans), and there are anecdotal reports of people boiling them in several changes of water to make them safe to eat.

We'd love to hear from any readers who have cooked with these!

More information:
Lablab purpureus (L.) Sweet (USDA Plants Profile)
Dolichos lablab (Lablab purpureus) (Poisonous Plants of North Carolina)
Bataw (StuartXchange)
Sitaw, Bataw at Patani / Yard Long, Lablab & Lima Beans (Market Manila)

Related: Ingredient Spotlight: Long Beans

(Image: Emily Ho)

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Emily Han (formerly Emily Ho) is a writer, recipe developer and educator on topics such as food preservation, wild food and herbalism. She is author of Wild Drinks and Cocktails (Fall 2015), co-founder of Food Swap Network and creator of Miss Chiffonade