Ice Cream Bean - Inga Edulis
Did your parents ever tell you, in the height of a hot summer, that ice cream doesn’t grow on trees? Well, that’s not strictly true! Inga Edulis, a member of the Legume family, sprouts seed pods that contain fleshy matter with a taste just like Vanilla ice cream.
This tree is native to South America, where it is grown for various reasons including its fruit, shade and timber. It has also been used in medicines for centuries, and forms the basis for an alcoholic drink called Cachiri. The fruit that gives it its name are contained in seed pods-these are long and thin and shaped like bean pods, and can grow up to 3 feet long! The seeds themselves are not generally eaten, but are surrounded by a cottony covering which tastes like ice cream.
About the Ice Cream Bean Tree
As well as this extraordinary fruit, the Ice Cream Bean tree produces beautiful flowers which bloom for one night only-they are nocturnal flowers with delicate, brushlike white petals, pollinated mainly by bats.
As a Nitrogen fixer, it produces its own Nitrogen from nodules in the roots. Nitrogen is then distributed through the soil, making Inga Edulis ideal for planting in areas with Nitrogen poor soil and as a nursery plant for other trees and is popular in permaculture gardens.
Many people decide on planting straight into the ground to make the most of the nutrient fixing properties-but do bear in mind its tendency to grow very tall! It can grow up to 60ft in its native environment and you can be guaranteed a large shady canopy in time.
How to grow Ice Cream Bean
Inga Edulis will grow in just about any soil; it prefers moist conditions and it is even tolerant to acidic soil. It will improve the quality of any ground it is planted in due to its Nitrogen fixing properties.
This hardy plant will cope with colder conditions but it won’t be as happy-it can stand heat of over 30 degrees Celsius but it doesn’t grow so well in colder areas. It is very hardy but as a rainforest species it will not survive frosty conditions or prolonged drought.
Ice Cream bean - Inga Edulis is resistant to many types of diseases and bugs, making it a very popular addition to any garden.
-You won’t need to feed your Ice Cream bean too much, as it already produces some of its own nutrients-but it may benefit from added Magnesium and Potassium.
-As it comes from places with occasional heavy rainfall, your Ice Cream Bean will like a good soaking every now and then. In its native Mexico Inga Edulis will often be found lining the banks of rivers and streams, meaning that it gets year round irrigation-just keep yours well watered and it should be fine.
Harvesting your Ice Cream Beans
It is very easy to produce your own Ice Cream beans-basically just let the tree do all the work! When the impressive pods have finished growing, pick them from the tree and break them open-inside will be the soft, cotton candy-like seed covering.
Inga Edulis is a quirky, interesting tree with an easygoing nature that will add shade and nutrient to your garden-and a curious but delicious snack for your kitchen!