Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Germinating a hamburger bean

Here's another shot of the hamburger bean (Mucuna urens) I showed you in my previous post on drift seeds:

And now here it is a week after I sawed a notch in it with a pocket knife, soaked it for a day or two, then put it in moist peat moss and vermiculite:

See the little root peeking out? And how weirdly black and swollen the bean looks? That sucker took on a lot of water (and piercing its seed coat was no easy feat). I replanted the bean after the above picture and let it alone for a few more days... until a shoot rapidly emerged from the ground. And I do mean rapidly! It grew about 12" in a couple of days and started rotating around in a circle looking for something to grasp. It moved so fast that my wife and I sat on the porch and watched it make an entire rotation in about an hour. I stuck a little pole in for it to grab... which it did - and twisted itself completely tight to it within another hour's time.

From what I read, this particular bean grows many tens of feet into the air... reaching the top of tall trees... so I have no idea how I'll be able to keep it contained. I'd like to raise it to a point where it bears beans of its own, but that will mean protecting it from frosts this coming winter.

Here it is now:

Mucuna urens is a close relative of the velvet beans (Mucuna pruriens) I've been growing but it's apparently even more tropical. Who would've thought you could find a bean on the beach and grow it? I picked these things up dozens of times without ever thinking about germinating one. There's a first time for everything, I suppose. And even if this doesn't do anything for my "survival gardener" cred, it's at the very least a rather satisfying experiment.

For more on drift seeds, check out

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At April 3, 2013 at 6:06 PM , Blogger Ten at Eat Your Sands said...

wow, i am so impressed with that bean!

ok, more specific question about seed starting - My one blueberry bush has about 7 berries (it's in the shade, fertilized by pee-ponics (not mine!))... assuming i can get those berries when they are ripe before the tree sharks do, how do i grow the berries into new bushes? i don't think i have ever even seen a blueberry seed before. maybe plant the whole berry and hope for the best? or ferment it??

At April 3, 2013 at 8:36 PM , Blogger David The Good said...

Unless you're looking for genetic diversity, it's much easier to grow blueberries from cuttings than from seed. The seeds are itty-bitty things inside the berries. Here's a link on growing them I found recently:

I believe stratification is necessary. In that article, they're using frozen blueberries.

Cuttings will produce a lot faster, though. Simply take some small hardwood cuttings, dip 'em in rooting hormone and stick them in potting soil in pots on a windowsill. Rubber-band ziplock bags over the top of the pots to keep the humidity in. The little tents make a huge difference in your strike rate. I get about 80% success this way. They root in just over a month or so. I did a handful last year and planted them out in fall - they're about 12" tall now and doing great.

At April 4, 2013 at 7:02 AM , Blogger Ten at Eat Your Sands said...

sweet, i will try stratifying. yes, i'm also interested in the diversity. maybe will try cuttings later, if the tree sharks do get the berries!

At April 8, 2013 at 6:08 PM , Blogger Ten at Eat Your Sands said...

what kind of bean is this?

if you don't know the answer, i won't think any less of your plant nerdiness. you want one to try out?

At April 8, 2013 at 7:10 PM , Blogger David The Good said...

That's the rosary pea. I actually have a few in a little box with a skull drawn on top. One of the most poisonous plants.

I left a reply at permies for you... those are lovely little killers.


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