Jackbean (Canavalia ensiformis)

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Jackbean, is a climbing perennial legume commonly cultivated as an annual that produces foot-long bean pods! Canavalia ensiformis will produce 1-inch long flowers that are pink, purple, or white. The trademark ivory-colored beans of the plant should be harvested before complete maturation, with anywhere from the first 80 to 120 days of growth. They are about the size of a quarter, and were often eaten as a vegetable by native tribes in droughted regions of Arizona and Mexico. If eaten fully mature, they must be cooked before eating. Jackbean is native to Central and South America, where the bean pods are traditionally used for animal fodder and human nutrition, especially in Brazil where it is called feijão-de-porco. It is also the source of concanavalin A, a lectin used in research to better understand soil pathology, our immune systems, cancer cells, and more.

It is called by a list of common names that almost match its list of potential uses: Chickasaw lima bean, Brazilian broad bean, coffee bean, ensiform bean, pig bean, horse bean, mole bean, go-ta-ki, overlook bean, Pearson bean, watanka, raba de burro, and more. It has a lot in common with sword bean, Canvalia gladiata, but grows as a vine instead of a bush. 

How to Grow Jackbean

Plant Type: Perennial Legume Climbing Vine, may be cultivated as an Annual

Harvest Season: Late Summer - Fall or throughout the year, depending on preferred bean maturity and growing location. 

Mature Size: Up to 32 ft. vine

Soil & Moisture: Well-drained soils, but can tolerate drought

Exposure: Full Sun, Part Shade

Zone Hardiness: 9-11

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