What was the purple speckled bean I saw in Tamil Nadu, India?
April 11, 2009 4:00 PM   Subscribe

When I lived in Chennai, the produce markets had these large fava-sized/shaped beans that were bright purple and white. They were fresh. Sometimes they came in large similarly colored pods, other times there were shelled. They were edible fresh, though we steamed them for sanitation. They were some of the best beans I've ever had, and reminded me more of fresh pea pods than beans, despite their large size. Any clue what they were?
posted by aussicht to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like heirloom beans.
posted by scarello at 4:05 PM on April 11, 2009

There are a number of bean varieties that come in those colors -- they're usually sold as seed though, because they haven't been commercialized in our mass agriculture western world. ;) What scarello was getting at by saying "heirloom" is that you'll find them from specialty seed sellers.

Here's a few examples from one of my favorite catalogs: Dragon's Tongue, Jacob's Cattle.
posted by SpecialK at 4:18 PM on April 11, 2009

but they were beans like the dried beans we get? they were soft enough to eat raw for example.
posted by aussicht at 4:22 PM on April 11, 2009

Fresh borlotti beans?
posted by laukf at 4:26 PM on April 11, 2009

Fresh pinto beans?
posted by hydrophonic at 4:29 PM on April 11, 2009

aussicht: What I'm saying is that there are beans of all types that come in those colors; to procure the beans you're seeking, you will probably need to grow them yourself.
posted by SpecialK at 4:34 PM on April 11, 2009

Ugh. Oh, how I wish we could embed pictures...

Dragon's Tongue, a dutch wax bean, related to a green bean. pinto beans. Wikipedia page on common beans, of which Borlotti, Cranberry, Pinto, etc. are all members.

LOTS of beans come in those colors.
posted by SpecialK at 4:43 PM on April 11, 2009

my guess (wild) would be some relative of phaseolus coccineus, the scarlet runner bean. these beans fit your description of "large fava sized/shaped," and can be eaten fresh or dried. the differences are the beans themselves are purple and black and (i think) central/south american natives, and i don't think i've ever seen them with any color of pods besides green.

if you do end up having to grow your own, that would be no great tragedy (assuming you had a place to do so), as they are quite lovely, vigorous vines with beautiful vermilion flowers; in fact, most people grow them as ornamentals rather than a food crop.

good luck in your search.
posted by miss patrish at 5:07 PM on April 11, 2009

Thanks for all the help. It is definately larger and flatter than any pinto, borlotti, etc. It is something like lima bean or fava shaped and sized. Christmas limas look closed but the coloring was different. I had just never run into fresh beans before, and so didn't know that they were soft if that is correct.
posted by aussicht at 6:01 PM on April 11, 2009

Without seeing a picture, I'd hazard scarlet runner.

I can't find a gis pic of the ones that I grew up with but they were large kidney-shaped but mottled purplish-darkred and off white-ish

Have you seen them while still in pods?
posted by porpoise at 9:00 PM on April 11, 2009

I should check with a couple of my coworkers from my last job who are from Tamil Nadu, but I'm going to make a guess that they're lablab or hyacinth beans.
posted by sciencegeek at 5:50 AM on April 12, 2009

Several possible suggestions from this page of The Cook's Thesaurus.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:11 PM on April 12, 2009

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