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Plant Catalogue

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Inga Bean

Inga Spp.

The Inga is an evergreen tree from South America growing to around 6 metres in height, but it can be kept smaller with frequent pruning. It can handle light frosts but prefers a warm and sunny location. It is tolerant of a range of soil types and does not require high fertility, but dislikes soils that are too wet.

Also known as the Ice Cream Bean, the Inga  tree produces masses of large pods up to 30cm long containing large seeds surrounded by an edible, white pulp. It is delicious, juicy and mildly sweet, with a somewhat candy floss like texture that can take a little getting used to.

The seeds are supposedly also edible when cooked, although the ones that I have tried have been so bitter they were inedible. It could be a difference between cultivars or between different species.

Inga beans are often sold incorrectly as Inga edulis, but Inga edulis pods look very different to all the pods we have seen so far in New Zealand so we believe that they are in fact hybrids, or different species all together. 

Inga beans are trees well suited to food forest and agroforestry systems, as their fast growth means they can be used as an emergent pioneer tree to provide shade and shelter to other slower growing and less hardy fruit and nut trees. They are legumes and can fix nitrogen if the correct bacteria are present in the soil, although all the trees we have inspected in New Zealand have been missing the pink colouring to the nodules which indicates the bacteria are present. If pruned as part of regular chop and drop food forest management they provide good amounts of biomass to be used as mulch.


They fruit in late autumn and winter, when not much else is growing, so they are a great for helping provide year round food supply. Trees are self fertile and can begin fruiting from 3-4 years.

Size: 1.3L

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