Guar beans, also known as cluster bean and Cyamopsis tetragonoloba, are bean plants grown extensively in Northern India and Pakistan. Its young legumes are an essential food source, while its mature beans are valuable commercial commodities.
Many products we use daily include guar gum, a thickening agent derived from the dried and crushed endosperm from ripe beans. Guar gum is found in baking, ice cream production, and an essential oil excavation industry.
There are lots of reasons you may want to grow guar beans at home. The upright, bushy plant produces prolific clusters of long, thin bean pods edible when immature. Leaves from the guar bean plant are eaten raw and cooked for their nutritional properties and unique flavor.
Guar cluster bean plants are popular in hot, semi-arid regions. Still, they will not grow very well in cold, northern areas of the US.
What are Guar Beans?
Guar cluster beans are the mature seeds of guar plants, a legume common in India. Guar beans range in color from black and brown to pink and white and can be eaten once toasted to destroy the trypsin inhibitor.
In India, guar beans are often called gawar and are common in curries and other dishes. The seed pods are harvested when immature to ensure a tender texture and optimal flavor.
Guar cluster bean plants produce large bunches of upright beans rapidly. The prolific bean production makes the guar bean a vital food source in areas that lack the resources for large-scale cultivation. Guar beans are nutritious and fast-growing bushy plants that thrive in hot conditions.
– What is Guar Gum?
Most US gardeners will recognize guar gum as a common ingredient in a variety of foods. Guar gum is frequently found as a thickener in gluten-free items and is used to manufacture ice cream to create smaller ice crystals.
Mature guar beans are ground into a powder, and the gum is extracted with a cold water process. Beyond use as a thickener, guar gum has become an essential aid to lubricating deep-earth drills used for fracking in the process of extracting oil trapped in layers of rock.
– How to Use Cluster Bean Pods
The pods are edible and should be selected when they are bright green and slightly slimy. It is when the flavor is optimal and the beans are tender and crunchy.
Prepare fresh guar bean pods to use in a recipe, snap or cut the ends off and use just like green beans or yard long beans. A popular dish in Northern India combines guar pods with turmeric, coriander, and red chile powder which is sauteed and dressed with powdered mango.
– What Do Guar Beans Taste Like?
Guar beans have a taste much like that of the common broad bean. They are a touch bitter and have a green flavor like that of a string bean. The texture is somewhat less tender than green beans and is best in cooked recipes.
How to Grow Guar Bean Plants
Planting guar beans and growing them are not difficult in most regions. They are heat- and drought-tolerant but can’t withstand frost. To achieve a mature harvest, guar bean plants require about 90 days of frost-free conditions.
They grow best in climates above 80 degrees and do well in humid environments. Guar bean plants can be grown ornamentally for their flowers or as a food source for immature pods and leaves. Mature bean pods can be useful for making guar gum and are a good feed source for livestock.
– Starting Guar Bean Seeds
Guar bean seeds will develop best when you start them in soil. The plant grows a long taproot, so transplanting is ill-advised. The plant prefers warm and somewhat dry conditions, so gardeners should wait to start guar cluster bean seeds until well after the threat of frost has passed.
Gardeners should not soak cluster bean seeds before planting because the seeds can split, and harmful pathogens can grow.
How to Plant Guar Bean Seeds
Guar bean seeds will germinate well once the soil is warm. Plant guar bean seeds about one-inch deep in well-loosened soil to let the guar bean root develop quickly. Place guar bean seeds six-inches apart in rows 24 inches apart. You can use a pole to support the growing guar bean plant.
– Soil Conditions for Ideal Growth
Guar bean plants will grow in various soil types but prefer soil temperatures above 65 degrees. The plants tend to prefer slightly acidic soil that is loose, well-draining, and prepared with organic compost. It isn’t necessary to add fertilizer to the soil. Gardeners have had success growing guar bean plants in the US in sandy and loamy soil types.
Guar bean seedlings tend to grow slowly and are susceptible to being overrun by weeds. The best way to prepare the soil is to create a ridge or mounds in rows to provide drainage and make clearing weeds easier.
– Light Conditions For Growing Guar Bean
Light is the most critical factor in reasonable growth rates from your guar beans. You will want to plant guar bean seeds in full sunlight locations. The guar bean is a heat-loving and drought-tolerant plant, but it can’t handle frost. Even cool, shady spots will have a significant impact on seed pod growth.
– Ideal Watering for Efficient Production
While the guar bean plant is known for drought tolerance, it does require the proper amount of water.
Overwatering guar bean plants reduces seedpod production and hurts quality.
Underwatering your guar bean plants will facilitate growth and hurt production also. The best way to water guar bean plants is to give water slowly at the roots weekly or when the soil is mostly dry.
– Can Cluster Bean Plants Grow in Containers?
Cluster bean plants are an ideal container plant variety. The plant has an upright growth habit well-suited to containers and rarely exceeds six feet in height.
You should select a container that is at least 18 inches deep to provide plenty of room for root growth. Ensure the container is well-draining as guar bean plants do not grow well in wet soil.
When to Harvest
Guar bean plants will take between 60 and 90 days before harvest. The plants require warm and sunny days to develop. Flowers grow in clusters of blue, pink, and shades of white then develop into seed pods. The immature pods are ready to harvest when they are two to four inches in length, bright green, and have a slimy texture. These are the pods you make Indian curry dishes and other recipes with.
If you are growing guar bean plants for the mature beans, allow the pods to develop and dry on the plant thoroughly. Once the pod is dry, clip it off. Like many legume varieties, you’ll find a string in the shell that will open the pod when you pull it off. Pods contain around ten seeds. Mature seeds should be toasted before use to make them more palatable and digestible.
– Storage Strategies
When you harvest guar bean pods, the best way to preserve them is to place them in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer. It would help if you cooked fresh guar bean pods reasonably quickly. Avoid storing guar beans in plastic bags because they can quickly rot. Soft or dark spots are signs that the bean should be thrown out.
You can store guar beans for a longer time by freezing the seed pods. Before freezing, you will need to blanch the green cluster beans in boiling water for a few minutes before immersing in an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Frozen guar beans will last for several months in the freezer.
The most common pests in the US that impact guar bean plants are leafhoppers and guar midge. The guar midge has become an increasing problem in the American Southwest, where guar is commercially grown. Guar midge females lay eggs in the guar bean plants’ blossoms where the larvae hatch and feed on the plant, killing the pod. Guar midge can kill 30 percent of a crop of guar bean plants.
Leafhoppers, particularly the small green leafhopper, are a concern in larger crops of guar bean plants. These insects suck sap from guar bean plants and can cause discoloration and plant death. Infestations can destroy large amounts of bean crops quickly.
You can reduce guar midge populations by spraying with water. Careful inspection of guar bean crops is essential to prevent midge populations. Introducing beneficial predatory insects like ladybugs and lacewing can help to control leafhopper populations. Diatomaceous earth can also be used to kill pests on your guar bean plants.
Guar beans are susceptible to several common diseases in the US. Guar bean gardeners have seen Alternaria leaf spot disease and bacterial blight, among other less-common problems. Often when guar bean plants have infections, the plant must be destroyed to prevent spreading disease.
Leaf spot diseases are caused by a fungus frequently transmitted by seeds. You’ll notice ring or target-like spots on leaves that eventually will die and drop off. Bacterial blight looks like the tips of the leaves have died. It will eventually spread and kill the plant.
The best way to avoid diseases in your guar bean crop is to select high-quality seeds from a reputable seed company or garden center. Many varieties of guar bean plants are resistant to leaf spots and diseases.
Varieties of Guar Bean Plants
There are several popular varieties of guar bean plants you can choose to grow.
Some of the most popular types include:
- Brooks: One of the first “improved” cultivars, Brooks is resistant to blight and leaf spot and produces average yields of medium-sized seeds.
- Mills: This variety is known for rapid early harvests. It can produce ready-to-harvest pods eight days sooner than other types, making it ideal for cooler, northern growing conditions.
- Lewis: One of the newest hybrid varieties, Lewis is a cross between a smooth-leaf variety and a fuzzy-leaf variety. Lewis is one of the most prolific producers of medium mature seeds and is a valuable variety for commercial guar gum production.
Guar Bean Nutrition
Guar beans are rich in Vitamins A, C, and K, along with numerous minerals and nutrients. The immature seed pods are high in dietary fiber and provide an excellent source of antioxidants.
Guar bean is good for maintaining diabetes, improving heart health and circulation, and helps regulate digestion. Guar beans are recommended for pregnant women because the vegetable is high in folic acid. This essential nutrient helps reduce the possibility of many birth defects.
- Guar bean is a variety of legumes commonly grown in India and Pakistan and is an important food crop and livestock feed.
- American shoppers are most familiar with guar gum, an extract from the mature guar bean seeds used to thicken food products.
- Guar beans grow in clusters, hence the nickname of cluster beans.
- They are eaten in curry dishes and can be cooked in recipes calling for green beans.
- Guar bean seeds should be planted directly into the soil rather than starting indoors.
- The plants require good drainage, lots of sunlight, and at least 60-90 days of warmth to grow well.
- Guar bean plants require sparse but regular watering.
- The plant makes a great container plant because of its upright growth habits.
- Immature seed pods can be harvested when they are bright green and less than four inches in length. Mature bean pods are best for commercial guar gum production.
- You can store fresh pods in the refrigerator for several days or blanch and freeze for long-term storage.
- Common pests include guar midge and green leafhoppers that can be controlled with beneficial predators or diatomaceous earth.
- Many seed varieties available to US growers are resistant to leaf spot and blight, the two most common diseases of guar bean plants.
Guar bean plants might not be the first thing you decide to grow this season. Still, once you learn about the nutritional value, growing guar beans may be an excellent addition to your garden.
The plants make lovely container plants and are among the most heat-tolerant legume varieties on the market today. Guar beans make an exciting addition to your garden.