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Fancy an ice cream bean for dessert?

Wolfgang Stuppy
12 July 2013

For the IncrEdibles festival Kew's resident seed specialist Wolfgang Stuppy is contributing bite-size features about weird and wonderful edible plants from around the world. In the second of the series - the incredible ice cream bean!

When travelling to far-away tropical countries, we are likely to encounter strange-looking but excitingly delicious fruits. One of these scrumptious exotics is the South American ice cream bean (members of the genus Inga spp, Leguminosae, for example Inga edulis, Inga feuilleei and Inga rhynchocalyx).

  • Guaba The ice cream bean is locally known as ‘guaba’ (pronounced ‘wuba’). Behind this mouth-watering name lies a beautiful tree with a remarkable fruit.

Image of the fruits of Inga edulis

Fruit of the ice cream bean tree (Inga edulis, Leguminosae) photographed in its native Brazil (Photo: Wolfgang Stuppy)

  • Height An ice cream bean tree produces bean-like pods that can exceed two metres in length and grow 30m (96ft) off the ground.
  • Sweet seeds Inside, lined up in one row, the pods contain numerous large purple-black seeds embedded in an edible, translucent-white pulp. The sweet flavour of the spongy pulp resembles that of vanilla ice cream, hence the name.

Fruit of Inga rhynchocalyx

Another delicious ice cream bean, Inga rhynchocalyx, a native of the Amazon rainforest (Photo: Wolfgang Stuppy) 

  • Spectacular flowers It’s not only the fruits that make Inga trees so very special. Their flowers, which produce the delicious ice cream beans, are pretty amazing too. They only open for one night and wither very quickly in the early morning. Like many other nocturnal flowers, they are large, white in colour and arranged in dense clusters (inflorescences).

Inga rhynchocalyx flowers

The nocturnal, brush-like flowers of Inga rhynchocalyx only last for one night and are mainly pollinated by bats (Photo: Wolfgang Stuppy)

- Wolfgang Stuppy - 

Read the full story about the IncrEdible ice cream bean on the Millennium Seed Bank blog 



IncrEdible festival attractions

Tutti Frutti Boating Experience

Take a ride on the Tutti Frutti Boating Experience with Bompas & Parr and enter the secret banana grotto, beneath Pineapple Island!

Food and Drink

Taste our Amazing ice-cream, take part in the IncrEdibles Tasty Trail, enjoy an IncrEdibles Barbeque, sample ales, beers and ciders from around the country, and more ...

Family Fun

Join in the Rose Garden Tea Party, get the little ones' faces painted, and more ...

IncrEdibles Attractions

Explore the The Global Kitchen Garden, discover something tasty in the Tropical larder, pick up spicy chilli recipes at the Flavour Fiesta, and more ...

priority booking for Kew the Music

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