Plant ID forum: There's this weird bean plant I want to eat...

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MN
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autumnapple
Aug 2, 2017 9:23 PM CST
(Edit to add that I'm not actually going to eat this plant unless I know 100% what it is. Don't worry!)

I started my first garden this year in my city's community garden. It's a big field full of 25'x25' plots in the middle of a park. My husband and I noticed pretty quickly that a bunch of people were not pulling certain weeds. In fact, people were letting entire plots fill up with this weed. Now it's summer and to my surprise, these "weeds" have started growing beans! My husband finally caught one of our neighbors as she harvesting this plant and asked her about it. She said they pick the leaves and use them not unlike how we'd use spinach (fresh in salads or sauteed with meat, etc.). The beans are also edible. Unfortunately, she didn't know the English word for this plant and that's the problem we've run into. Every single person growing this plant is an African immigrant and while most speak decent English, we haven't been lucky enough to find someone who knows the English name of this plant. I've browsed pictures of bean plants here and can't find anything like it. I'd love some help IDing it! I really want to try it out, but I want to learn more about it first.

As I said before, these plants were growing up everywhere in the garden like a weed. Since it's a community garden though, it's quite possible these are non-native. We're located in Minnesota. The plant is about 2.5'-3' tall with small white flowers. Around the time I noticed the flowers blooming (late July), I noticed the beans on the plant. It's a freestanding plant and the beans grow out of the fuzzy center stalk. The bean pods are roughly 3" long. Below are some pics I took of someone's entire garden plot of these things. Some of the leaves were yellowing a bit, but almost everything in these photos are of the mystery plant.

Thumb of 2017-08-03/autumnapple/f3b884

Thumb of 2017-08-03/autumnapple/9170b3


This last pic is a top-down view of the plant.

Thumb of 2017-08-03/autumnapple/15dbe1

[Last edited by autumnapple - Aug 2, 2017 9:51 PM (+)]
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Name: Dave Paul
Puna, HI (Zone 10b)
Live in a rainforest, get wet feet.
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Metrosideros
Aug 2, 2017 9:37 PM CST
Many legumes have seriously dangerous protiens that you can't digest. Better if you just let them be. Eat commonplace conventional food.
springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Identifier
Frillylily
Aug 2, 2017 9:38 PM CST
White wild indigo (Baptisia alba)

maybe this?


Edit to add, I have no idea if you can eat this, or if it IS this, but others will chime in.
Please don't eat it yet, until you know for sure!
Most places have a county office to help with plant id, where you can take a piece of it in, do you have anything like that in your area?
[Last edited by Frillylily - Aug 2, 2017 9:39 PM (+)]
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Name: Dave Paul
Puna, HI (Zone 10b)
Live in a rainforest, get wet feet.
Plant Identifier
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Metrosideros
Aug 2, 2017 9:41 PM CST
Eating lots of toxic laden weeds can kill you.
Name: Sherry Austin
Santa Cruz, CA (Zone 9a)
Region: California Irises Keeper of Poultry Roses Dragonflies Birds
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Henhouse
Aug 2, 2017 9:50 PM CST
I'm wondering if it's Cleome, aka Spider flower..
When counting, try not to mix chickens with blessings.
springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Identifier
Frillylily
Aug 2, 2017 9:50 PM CST
Not sure she mentioned any toxins being used on the weeds? Many 'weeds' are edible and will not kill you. That is why she is asking Whistling
springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Identifier
Frillylily
Aug 2, 2017 9:51 PM CST
Henhouse said:I'm wondering if it's Cleome, aka Spider flower..


do those get the little bean pods? I have never grown Cleome.
MN
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autumnapple
Aug 2, 2017 9:55 PM CST
Thank you for the concern! Sorry, I should have clarified that I don't actually plan to eat this thing until I know for sure what it is and how to prepare it correctly. Even though I see half a dozen people out there harvesting this plant at any given time and they assure me it's edible, I'd rather be safe than sorry.

Frillylily said:https://garden.org/plants/view/75499/White-wild-indigo-Baptisia-alba/

maybe this?


Edit to add, I have no idea if you can eat this, or if it IS this, but others will chime in.
Please don't eat it yet, until you know for sure!
Most places have a county office to help with plant id, where you can take a piece of it in, do you have anything like that in your area?


I've seen white indigo in person and at least the variety I saw was a much taller plant with showier flowers. They do look kind of similar though! I also had no idea there were county offices that id plants. I'll do some googling and see if I can find one near me. Thank you!

Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
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DaisyI
Aug 2, 2017 11:10 PM CST
The leaves look like Cleome but the seed pods do not. Do those leaves and seed pods go together? Maybe we are seeing parts of two plants.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost
Name: Scott
Tampa FL
Tropicals Region: Florida Enjoys or suffers hot summers Bromeliad Plumerias Dog Lover
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ScotTi
Aug 3, 2017 1:09 AM CST
[Last edited by ScotTi - Aug 3, 2017 1:16 AM (+)]
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Name: Scott
Tampa FL
Tropicals Region: Florida Enjoys or suffers hot summers Bromeliad Plumerias Dog Lover
Foliage Fan Orchids Cactus and Succulents
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ScotTi
Aug 3, 2017 1:15 AM CST
Cleome gynandra is used in parts of the world as a food crop for nutrients and medicinal property .
[Last edited by ScotTi - Aug 3, 2017 1:32 AM (+)]
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Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
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sooby
Aug 3, 2017 2:30 AM CST
It looks like Cleome to me too. Daisy, the seed pods look about right for Cleome to me, why do you think they are wrong?
MN
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autumnapple
Aug 3, 2017 8:41 AM CST
DaisyI said:The leaves look like Cleome but the seed pods do not. Do those leaves and seed pods go together? Maybe we are seeing parts of two plants.

Yep! They go together. That's part of the reason I was so baffled by this plant. It in no way looked edible to me as it was growing. Hilarious!

ScotTi said:Cleome gynandra is used in parts of the world as a food crop for nutrients and medicinal property .

I think you're right! The picture on wikipedia looks exactly like it and these bits in the article also seem to confirm my suspicion that it's an African crop.

"It is an annual wildflower native to Africa..."

"In several African countries, it is simply referred to as spinach or wild spinach (not to be confused with spinach)..."

So that's probably why the first lady we spoke to said to use it like spinach! Green Grin! I also managed to find an email form last night that let me send pictures of this plant to a master gardener at the state university. I'll wait to see if they say anything else, but otherwise it looks like the mystery might be solved!
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
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DaisyI
Aug 3, 2017 9:45 AM CST
If I shrink the 'beans' down to the right size (in my brain), they look like Cleome. I was visualizing something 6 inches long. Smiling
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost
Name: greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
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greene
Aug 3, 2017 1:02 PM CST
I agree you should take a look at Cleome gynandra.

Keep in mind that just because some people grew up eating something, does not mean that your digestive system will tolerate it unless you start with small doses.

Try to ask some of the other gardeners how they use the plant, recipes, etc. We may all learn something!
Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~~"Leaf of Faith"
Name: Rj
Just S of the twin cities of M (Zone 4b)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Plant Identifier Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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crawgarden
Aug 3, 2017 6:51 PM CST
http://www.wildturmeric.net/20...

Did not see in any of the articles that the beans are edible.
Keep Calm and Carry On

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