This online guide has been created for you to successfully grow a variety of plants that thrive in the tropics, using native seeds and plants to get growing with wise advice from fellow backyard gardeners and farmers.   You are welcome to add your wisdom and share growing and harvest tips and recipes. Send to Welcome to the Pro-Organic Belize
Tropical Garden Grow Guide

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Mucuna - January 2024
Botanic name: Mucuna pruriens
Other common names: velvet bean, cowage, lyon bean
Plant type:
A member of the Fabaceae family
Sun exposure:

Prefers full sun       

pH: 5 – 8
Soil preference: Mucuna is productive in many soil types

Grow guide index


Mucuna is leguminous annual or short-lived perennial vine plant which is native to Africa, tropical Asia and India.  It is now widely cultivated in tropical climates worldwide, including Belize.  Mucuna produces shoots and beans that are used as fodder which is rich in protein for ruminant animals and as a food and medicine source for humans. The stalk, roots and leaves are rich in nitrogen and are considered to be an excellent 'green manure' cover  crop.


How to grow: It is recommended that seeds be sown just prior to the onset of the rainy season.  Plants require generous irrigation in order to get the plants established, once the vines are established, they are drought resistant. Online planting advises to plant each seed about 3/4 to 1 inch deep, then saturate the soil.  Generally it takes about 180 to 200 days to production.  Be advised that vines are very vigorous and can grow to be 50 feet in length as they trail and climb! 


Dr. Henry Anton Peller, soil scientist advises:
'How to plant mucuna on a small farm' to boost corn production.

When corn is about 8 weeks old, plant mucuna beans after cleaning the weeds and following a good rain. Using a dibble stick, plant 2 or 3 seeds in 2” deep holes spaced 3 feet apart. Harvest corn. Let mucuna climb up the stalks. It will take over the field and shade out weeds within 2 months. When it is time to plant the next crop, kill the mucuna with a sickle mower or machete. Keep the leaves and stems as mulch on top of the soil. The mulch keeps weeds down, protects the soil and feeds the soil micro-organisms.  Plant corn seed, vegetables transplants, or any crop through the mulch and into the soil.


Disease and insect control: Mucuna plants are resistant to most pests and diseases with the exception of leaf-eating caterpillars. To harvest: Pods can be hand-harvested by spreading the pods a day before shelling on a clean dry surface in the shade.  Shelling is done by pounding the dried pods or a shelling machine. There are usually approximately 7 seeds in each pod which are usually dark brown or black, although some produce light colored beans. 


Health advisories:  Immature plants are well known for the extreme itchiness the young foliage and seed pods can produce. Contact with human skin can produce many red swollen bumps. The fuzzy hairs  disappear once the plant matures.  Mucuna is high in L-Dopa and can cause serious intestinal distress in high doses for non-ruminant animals.  In order to release the L-Dopa, beans must be soaked for at least 48 hours with water changes every 12 hours then boiled for at least 60 minutes with baking soda to reduce the L-Dopa.  There are many methods of preparing macuna beans that make the beans safer to consume.


Health benefits: Mucuna is used to boost male fertility, treat nervous disorders, is helpful for Parkinson's disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, improves sleep, is effective against snake bites and is good for digestion. The internet is full of mucuna remedies for sale.  The amateur herbalist must be wary about creating healing macuna preparations to avoid nausea and indigestion.


Recipes:  Mucuna beans are fermented to form a food similar to tempe. Once the beans are processed as described above, they are safer to eat as a rich protein and amino acid source.  A simple recipe advises to cook the macuna beans and turn off the heat before the beans turn mushy, then squeezing sour orange juice over the beans and garnishing with chopped cilantro, just before serving.