Description: Phaseolus vulgaris, the common bean, is a herbaceous annual plant grown worldwide for its edible dry seed or unripe fruit. Its leaf is also occasionally used as a vegetable and the straw as fodder.
Uses : Common bean is an important food crop adding flavour, protein and essential vitamins and minerals (such as iron and folic acid) to the diets of millions of people throughout the world. The dry mature seed are mostly eaten as a pulse and the immature pods and seeds as a vegetable. Common bean is often considered the ‘meat of the poor’ and forms the main protein source for people in many countries although it is also popular with wealthier consumers.
In tropical Africa the seeds are typically boiled with seasoning and oil. They can also be eaten mashed or made into soup. The seeds of the common bean are canned in many parts of the world, either alone or in tomato sauce. When food is scarce some people consume the leaves as a vegetable, but the majority of cultivars have leaves which are too tough to be eaten. In Java, the young leaves of the plant are eaten as a salad.
In temperate regions it is more common to grow Phaseolus vulgaris for its green immature pods (French bean) which are canned, frozen or eaten fresh.
As well as being an excellent food source for humans, the crop can be used as fodder to feed animals.
Common bean plays an important role in folk medicine and is said to relieve a variety of ailments from acne and diabetes to diarrhoea, eczema and even hiccups.
Some unusual uses for Phaseolus vulgaris include using the leaves to trap bedbugs in houses (the insects get caught on the leaf’s microscopic hairs (trichomes), and using the beans to tell fortunes, a method of divination known as favomancy.