Velvet Bean Shades the Wash Basin

Water management



Washing clothes in the hot sun is no fun.

Mr. Celso Antonio of Mexico discovered a way to make washing clothes more pleasant.

You know those cement wash basins people have at the back of their house, or somewhere nearby?

Well, Mr. Antonio planted a vine called velvet bean (Mucuna pruriens) over the wash basin in his yard.

And what a difference it makes! It is much cooler to work at the wash basin now.

The leaves on the vine provide shade for the water in the basin. The basin is usually built in an open space where the burning sun is shining down. Because the vine shades the basin, less water disappears into the air.

This is a good way to conserve water.


Our friend Celso Antonio made a good choice when he chose velvet bean to cover his wash basin, because the velvet bean has many uses.

Mr. Antonio spreads the leaves of the plants on his garden as mulch. He feeds the young vines and leaves to his pigs.

Celso Antonio prepares the dried beans for his family to eat. And he prepares a nutritious drink – similar to coffee – from the beans. Yes, velvet beans can be a good food source.

But if you prepare velvet beans to eat you should not eat a large amount and you should always mix them with other foods.

You must always remove the husks</strong when preparing the beans for food or drink.

The husks contain a toxin and they can make you sick.

Celso Antonio recommends that other farmers plant velvet bean in their yard for shade, to improve the soil, or to harvest the beans.

Even if you live in the city you can plant velvet beans because they can grow in a small space!


Following are two simple velvet bean recipes:

Fried Velvet Bean:


1/2 pound velvet bean
1 small onion
1 clove of garlic (optional)
1 medium sized green pepper
oil (as you like)
salt, cumin seed and hot pepper to your taste

To prepare:

  1. Wash the beans and cook for 1 1/2 – 2 hours.
  2. When the skins have broken open, take the beans off the heat. Wash and remove the skins. This is very important.
  3. Grind the cooked beans with a band grinder or stone until they are a soft fine paste.
  4. Dice the onion, garlic, green pepper and fry in oil.
  5. Immediately after frying the onion, garlic and green pepper, add the ground bean paste mixed with a little water. Add salt and cumin seed to taste.
  6. Fry for another 8 minutes and it’s ready to eat.

Nutri-chocolate Drink:
(makes 12 cups)


1 pound of velvet bean
1/2 pound corn
1 stick cinnamon
1 pinch of salt (optional)
11 glasses of water
8 tablespoons of powdered milk (optional)
sugar (depending on taste)

To prepare:

  1. Clean, wash and dry the beans. Be sure to remove the skins before roasting them.
  2. Roast the beans, cinnamon and corn over a low fire so they are well-roasted but not burned. Grind them to a very fine powder. This is nutri-chocolate. It can be stored in sealed plastic bags until needed.
  3. Dissolve the powdered milk with 11 glasses of water and boil it with 8 tablespoons of nutri-chocolate for 12 minutes.
  4. Add the salt, sugar and vanilla to taste. It is now ready to drink.


  • Contributed by: Mr. Celso Antonio Rios Mendoza, President, Socieda de Produccion Rural Ltd. (Society for Rural Production Ltd.), San Jose‚ del Progreso-Tututepec, Oaxaca, Mexico.

Velvet beans can be a good food source. They are nutritious and high in protein. But they should not be the only source of food for humans or animals, and they should not be eaten in large quantities. Velvet beans contain a toxin which can cause some people to vomit or feel nauseous and light headed. Different people have different reactions to eating velvet beans so it is difficult to say how much is safe to eat. Whenever you use velvet bean as food, you must be sure to remove the skin from the beans. The toxin is found only in the skin of the bean. The skin can be removed easily by hand after cooking the velvet beans in water for at least one hour. Discard the skins and the water after cooking.