Moth Beans

Phaseolus aconitifolius          100 daysearly picking matt bean 1000 by 750

Moth Beans (pronounced “moat”) originate from India where they are cultivated in arid regions. They are also grown in parts of the Mediterranean as well as the Middle East. Extremely drought and heat-tolerant. Considered to be one of the smallest beans cultivated. They can be eaten in the green stage or allowed to mature and used as a dry bean. They can be sprouted like Mung beans or cooked like lentils, and also work well in combination with rice. Delicious, with a “nutty” flavor and very high in protein (22-24%). The plants are low growing and spread out, forming a mat, hence their other common name, the “Mat Bean”. Moth beans can be grown as a “living mulch” under crops like corn, smothering weeds and helping to retain moisture. The beans will mildew easily in wet soil conditions. Since Northern Indiana has a good amount of rainfall in the summer, I recommend allowing the plant’s runners to climb up onto some type of mini-trellis in order to keep the pods off the ground. Plant in late spring, after all danger of frost has passed. You can direct seed 1/2″ deep and 6″ apart, or start indoors as transplants and set out when the soil warms. Once established the key is to allow the soil to dry out between watering. They grow best on very well-drained, sandy soils, but I have had success even on clay loam. Harvesting is a bit time consuming if you keep the pods picked as they mature on the plant. The other option would be to let the whole plant mature and dry, and then harvest the whole plant for threshing. I have not tried this method, but it would be worth investigating. I can not yet classify Moth Beans as a “staple crop” in Northern Indiana. Not until a more efficient growing/harvesting method can be worked out. The primary reason for growing them is that they will not cross with other common beans like pole, snap, and soybeans. This allows for more diversity in a small area where various legumes will be grown in close proximity to one another.

Young plants in June

Young plants in June

Drying Moth Bean pods

Drying Moth Bean pods

Tiny beans ready to eat

Tiny beans ready to eat

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