The sword bean – it had ‘bean’ in the kitchen!

OMG! This year the double bean has decided to come back with a vengeance! My reaction to see a vine climbing up a trellis in two places at Chaitraban. Yet again, I thought, I am in for a hard time plucking out double beans sprouting near the young trees, climbing up and making a tangle very difficult to unravel and remove lest they suffocated them in the new food forest. Sure, double beans made food for the table and the vine was a nitrogen fixer, easy to grow, but we all never did really take to the taste. That weekend there were too many things to do. The chickens needed to be shifted to their new home and the leaking tap in the nursery was crying for attention. At the end of the day, I didn’t get to the- what looked like a double bean- sapling and returned to Mumbai.

For the next few weeks there was always something to do which needed immediate attention and the beans went on back stage. It was almost four weeks till I could look at them and lo! I was in for a pleasant shock! What looked like double bean was no double bean at all, but the vine was much stronger, vigorous, in fact, with much bigger leaves. The most striking thing I noticed and loved was the beautiful delicate white flowers hanging down the roof of the nursery. They looked so pretty! This definitely wasn’t double bean. I racked my brains to remember what I had sown. It must have been one of the many seeds I sowed and forgot, I thought. And it came to me then. Sword beans!! A friend had shared a few pretty pink seeds which looked really too big to be beans. Moreover, he did not even remember the name of the bean then! But I decided to try and grow it. As usual, I forgot all about it. Come monsoon, and it had grown on the roof of the nursery, providing it the much-needed shade!

Next weekend I was in for more surprises. I had never seen such beautiful and ‘big!’ beans that hung on the vine. They looked beautifully fresh and green. I almost ate them fresh and raw that day. But experience (learnt the hard way) told me not everything which looked green and pretty was edible and I decided to take them home. They were very easy to harvest, unlike most beans, and I could pluck them with ease. If they were really edible, if not for anything else, I would grow them for the ease of harvest! I got them home and surprise after surprise awaited me. I wished I had the camera when I saw the look of delight on the face of the lady who helped with cooking. They used to have these beans in their meals regularly when she was a child, she said. Her eyes had the dreamy look of someone who remembers some fond memory. My mother-in-law said the same thing with the same expression when she saw them and both went to cook the vegetable, all excited at the new find. Just imagine! After all these years, right in our own garden! I knew Chaitraban was a magical place I always thought it was.

The curry for lunch with steaming rotis was a big hit! Not only with the seniors of the house but the kids loved it too. There was nothing left of it for dinner and we knew we were hooked to the bean that had ‘bean’ in the kitchen, a generation ago!


Sword bean (Canavalia gladiata) is called Abhay or Abai chi bhaaji in Marathi, Chamma kaya or Tammi kaya in Telugu. In Tamil it is called Valavaraik-kay or valavaran-gai

A multi-functional permaculture plant for sure!

Nitrogen fixer, super food, medicinal, easy to grow, adaptable to various climate and soil conditions, non fussy, tolerates shade, strong climber can be used to create quick shade, biomass, PERENNIAL!

More sword bean facts are here

The recipe we tried and loved is this

Harvest tender pods. Hard and old pods are difficult to cook.

Chop them fine width wise.

Take oil in a pan. Add mustard seeds. When they stop spluttering, add asafoetida (hing) and turmeric powder.

Add the chopped bean pods and saute a little.

Add red chilli powder and salt to taste.

Add water just enough to cover the vegetable. Cover and simmer till the pods are cooked soft.

Add some jaggery and mix. Cover for two minutes.

Garnish with chopped cilantro and grated coconut and serve hot with steaming fresh rotis.

Grow it in your garden and enjoy!

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