The Ice Cream Bean Fruit Tree!
- Location on Property: Garden I, Bamboo Hut
- Scientific Name: Inga feuilleei
- Region of Origin: Mexico and Central America
- Type: Useful
- General History: Aside from pacay another common name for this species is “guama.” Well known for its sweet taste, the pods have been around for a long time. They have been depicted in ancient ceramics. The Incas had pacay pods carried to their mountain capital of Cuzco. Pedro Pizarro reported that the Inca emperor Atahualpa sent to Francisco Pizarro a basketful of guamas as a gift.
2) Plant Uses:
- As Food: Pacay is cultivated mainly for its fruits.The fruits of I. densiflora are sold in markets and fruit stalls, especially in Colombia. In regions such as the Andean mountains, the tree produces crops twice a year.
- Ice Cream Bean Fruit is a legume, meaning it is a relative of green beans, snap peas, alfalfa, lentils, peanuts, etc. Being in this family, it bears an unusual fruit for a tree that resembles a giant bean pod, with a sweet, refreshing, cotton-like edible fiber on the inside. The pods are generally narrow, straight, and sometimes as long as a person’s forearm. They can easily be cracked open to expose the white, sugar-rich pulp, similar to cotton candy, surrounding the seeds. In English they have been called “ice-cream beans” due to the sweet flavor and smooth texture of the pulp.
- Inga species produce in abundance, and they provide sustenance in bad times. A family can produce food without occupying farmland used for food crops, because they can grow on sites neglected by agriculture.
- In Mexico, coffee-plantation workers can double their annual salary by selling the pods from the Inga trees used to shade the coffee plants. The seeds are roasted and sold outside theaters to moviegoers. In Central America, the seeds are cooked and eaten as a vegetable.
- Other Uses: The wood of the tree is occasionally used in construction, especially as planks or rafters. In its native range, it has been a source of latex used to adulterate chicle.
- Ice cream bean fruit trees are multipurpose trees and are valuable additions to gardens, orchards, fields, hedgerows, or wayside wastelands throughout warm parts of the world. Generally, they have outstanding prospects as urban trees for the tropics. They are also a source of snacks for the owners and cash for the enterprising.
3) Growing Instructions
- Growing: They grow rapidly, are tolerant of diverse soils, and are resistant to disease and fire. These trees generally occur near river banks, so it has year round irrigation.
- Best time to Harvest: When fruit is dark orange and soft to the touch. Sometimes may be hard yet orange but will ripen after picked.
- Sunlight Requirements: Full sun
- Soil Requirements: Naturally growing Inga trees produce abundant root nodules, which fix nitrogen, thus adding nitrogen to the soil rather than taking it away, hence benefiting the land by increasing fertility levels.
- Propagation: Propagates from seed or cutting
- Controlling Spread: These trees are easy to establish, spread their shade quickly, and provide fruit for years.
- Difficulties with this plant: At low temperatures, these trees are often damaged.
History of this Plant at Hedonisia:
We have two main Ice Cream Bean Fruit Trees on the property. Guests and visitors give mixed reactions to the fruit. Some really like it and others not so much! If it is in season when you are here you are welcome to try it our for yourself!