Our mystery seeds from last week were tepary beans, Phaseolus acutifolius.

tepary-bean-leaf-11Tepary bean plants look like any other bean, but they have slightly finer leaves. Even though they look delicate, these hardy tepary beans can grow under the most stressful conditions where most other plants whither away. Their main characteristic is that they are incredibly drought tolerant. Tepary beans only need one rain to germinate. The roots reach deeper into the soil than other beans, so tepary beans can produce fruit with very little moisture. In fact, overwatering inhibits seed production.

tepary-bean-seedling-closeThey have been grown for food for centuries in the Southwest.

tepary-bean-flowerSome cultivated tepary beans have delicate white flowers.


The wild types are often light to dark pink.

brown-tepary-bean(Photograph by Tracey Slotta @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database)

The beans themselves come in a variety of colors, including brown like these, rust, beige,

mystery-seeds-209white, and as you can see from a nonprofit organization that sells them, Native Seeds, a variety of other colors.

The beans have a low glycemic index and are high in fiber.

You can learn more about growing and using tepary beans in a .pdf pamphlet from The University of Arizona and this website from the Tohono O’odham Community.

Have you ever grown or eaten tepary beans?