Velvet beans are very long climbing vines that produce white or purple flowers and deep purple bean pods. They’re popular as medicine, cover crops, and occasionally as food. Keep reading to learn more about planting and growing velvet beans in the garden.
Velvet Bean Information
What is a velvet bean? Velvet bean plants (Mucuna pruriens) are tropical legumes that are native to southern China and eastern India. The plants have spread throughout much of Asia and are often cultivated around the world, especially in Australia and the southern United States.
Velvet bean plants are not frost hardy, but they have a short lifespan and even in hot climates they are almost always grown as annuals. (Occasionally they can be treated as biennials). The vines are long, sometimes reaching 60 feet (15 m.) in length.
Growing Velvet Beans
Velvet bean planting should take place in spring and summer, after all chance of frost has passed and soil temperature is at least 65 degrees F. (18 C).
Plant the seeds to a depth of 0.5 to 2 inches (1-5 cm.). Velvet bean plants naturally fix nitrogen in the soil, so they don’t need any additional nitrogen fertilizer. They do respond well to phosphorus, however.
Velvet Bean Uses
In Asian medicine, velvet beans are used to treat a range of symptoms including high blood pressure, infertility, and nervous disorders. The pods and seeds are purported to kill intestinal worms and parasites.
In the West, the plants tend to be grown more for their nitrogen fixing properties, working as a cover crop to restore nitrogen to the soil.
They are also sometimes grown as animal feed, both for farm and wild animals. The plants are edible, and the beans have been known to be boiled and eaten and ground as a coffee substitute.