The Q&A Archives: Bean Identification

Question: My Dad purchased a package of seeds that said they were oriental eggplants. They grew wonderfully. However, we are beginner vegetable growers and do not know what the plants, flowers, and what the actual process looks like. What we ended up with was some type of bean. It is a vining plant with "almond" shaped leaves. The flowers were purple, actually like a sweet pea flower (we should have paid attention to that). Anyway, when the pods started to emerge we assumed that they were eggplant. They grew fairly long, some pods were up to 2 feet long. We became curious and opened one up, after realizing that they were beans. The bean are a rose color with a dark center like a black eyed bean. They sort of resemble, in color, a cross between a pinto and red bean. Can you tell us what they are? It would be much appreciated so that we can know what to do with them. Hope the description is thorough enough.

Thank you

Answer: It sounds like a dry shelling bean to me, quite possibly Canavalia gladiata, or Sword Bean. The flat pods commonly grow 15" long and each pod contains 5-10 reddish seeds. The shape of the slightly curved pod resembles a sword. Sword bean is a viny perennial native to tropical Asia. If this doesn't describe your plant, it could be a standard shelling bean; either Cranberry or Mexican Pink. Both are great in soups or casseroles. Just for future reference, eggplant leaves typically have a slightly scalloped edge and, as members of the Solanum family, have star-shaped flowers. Enjoy your surprise harvest!

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