Fabaceae (Bean family)

Description. Annual creeping or climbing herbaceous plant. Alternate, trifoliate leaves rhombic to ovate, asymmetrical, 8-16 cm (3-6.4 in) long, softly pubescent. Yellowish-white or purple flowers are borne in axillary racemes. Pendent fruits cylindrical, slender green pods 40-90 cm (16-35 in) long with numerous purple, white, or black kidney-shaped seeds, 4-7 mm (0.16-0.28 in) long.

Benefits Of: YARDLONG BEAN SNAKE BEAN Photo Gallery

Origin and Distribution. Native to tropical southeastern Africa, where wild ancestors grow in savannas and dry forests. The plant was most likely domesticated in tropical West African savannas. Cultivated throughout the tropics and warm subtropics.

Food uses. Young, tender pods are used as a vegetable in stir-fries, soups, and curries or simply boiled and served as a side dish. Immature and less often mature seeds are eaten cooked. Tender shoots and leaves are used as potherbs. In South Asia, a thick, spicy stew called dal is prepared from the dry seeds and served with rice and vegetables. Comments. The yardlong bean is a subspecies of the common cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), native to tropical regions of Africa. The catjang cowpea (V. unguiculata subsp. cylindrica) is also widely cultivated in the tropics and subtropics for its immature seedpods and beans. The moth bean (V. aconitifolia) and the azuki bean (V. angularis), both native to tropical Asia, are also cultivated for their immature pods and mature seeds. Mature seeds contain about 50% carbohydrate and 20% protein. Description. Evergreen, usually multitrunked, woody plant with an often very thick stem base, 6-10 m (20-33 ft) in height. Linear, dark green, stiff, spineless leaves with rough edges and a pointed apex, 0.8-1.2 m (2.6-3.9 ft) long. White to cream-colored, bell-shaped flowers with fleshy petals are produced in large, erect, showy panicles. Fruits fleshy, brown, ovoid, 2-3 cm (0.8-1.2 in) long.

Origin and Distribution. Native to Central America, the Antilles, and Mexico. Widely cultivated in the tropics and frost-free regions of the subtropics as an ornamental. Often grown as a potted indoor plant.

Food uses. The flower petals have a slightly bitter taste and are used as a cooked vegetable or raw in salads. In Central America, they are a popular ingredient in dishes like scrambled eggs and omelets. In Mexico, they are used in soups and savory meat dishes. Comments. In Central and South America, the yucca is often grown as a windbreak and for erosion control in coffee plantations. The flower of Y. gi-gantea is the national flower of El Salvador and the state flower of New Mexico. In Spanish-speaking countries the yucca is often confused with yuca (Manihot esculenta, p. 265), also called cassava, of the Euphorbiaceae family, which produces starchy, underground tubers. The plant is also known by the synonyms Y. elephantipes and Y. guatemalensis. Description. Erect annual grass 2-3 m (6.6-10 ft) tall, forming a stalk of overlapping sheaths that grows to 5 cm (2 in) in diameter. Leaves alternate, broad-linear blades, 50-100 cm (20-40 in) long. Flowers are monoecious, with male flowers produced in terminal panicles. Female flowers are produced in the leaf axils; spikelets occur in 8-16 rows on a thickened, woody axis (cob). The whole structure (ear) is enclosed in numerous foliar bracts and a mass of long styles protruding from the tip (silk). Seeds are usually yellow or white, but many varieties with purple, black, or variegated colors exist. Origin and Distribution. Native to Mesoamerica; in southeastern Mexico, maize was domesticated some 12,000 years ago from wild grass ancestors called teosintes (Z. diploperennis, Z. perennis, and Z. luxurians). In the sixteenth century, it spread to

Europe and from there to Africa and Asia. Human selection has produced a wide array of cultivars adapted to different climates and altitudes.

Food uses. Unripe seeds are eaten raw, boiled, roasted, steamed, or dried. Entire cobs are boiled, grilled, or roasted and often served as a side dish or sold from roadside stalls as a snack. Corn flour is used to make the classical Mexican tortilla as well as tacos, and enchiladas. It is an essential ingredient in tamales. The seeds of purple maize varieties are used in Latin American countries to make chicha morada, a nonalcoholic refreshing drink (real chicha is a milky alcoholic drink made from fermented corn). Another drink originating in preColumbian Mesoamerica and still popular, especially in southern Mexico, is pozol, made from fermented corn dough.

Comments. There are more than 3,000 varieties of corn. It is the world’s most important cereal, with global production exceeding 800 million tons. The United States is the largest producer of corn, followed by China and Brazil. Ripe seeds contain about 70% carbohydrate and 9% protein that is relatively low in essential amino acids.

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