Hawaii Grown Fruit of the Month – Ice Cream Bean

Welcome to the “Hawaii Grown Fruit of the Month ” blog series.  This month we are featuring the Ice Cream Bean! If you are not already familiar with it, soon you will be able to identify it, know how to locate some and know what to do with it once you have it.  If you missed papaya being featured last month and would like to get caught up, click here for Papaya!

What is the Ice Cream Bean:
Ice cream bean is a sweet cotton like fruit that tastes like ice cream.  Ice Cream Bean also known as joaquinquil, cuaniquil guama and guaba is native to South America. It grows in the inga edulis tree and is widely used by the indigenous Amazonians for timber, shade and medicine. The tree can reach almost 100 feet in height and forms a broad spreading canopy. This is a perfect tree for producing shade grown coffee.

Where to get Ice Cream Beans:
Farmers Markets, your own yard, the yard of a friend and Hawaii Grocery stores. Plant a seed and have fruit within 4 years. This tree also grows from cuttings. I grew this tree in less than 4 years from a seed that was taken from an ice cream bean that I bought from the store.  I planted several seed they grew quickly as you can see in the photo below the seeds will sprout while still in the fruit. So all that really needs to be done is cover it with soil and keep them from drying out. I kept 3 and gave many more away. This tree grew to about 10 feet in height and began producing fruit in about 3 years.

When to Harvest Ice Cream Beans:
Ice cream bean is technically a legume, the fruit resembles a giant bean pod. The tree is a frequent producer throughout the year in Hawaii and is tolerant of neglected soil. The Ice Cream Bean tree is a nitrogen fixing tree and an abundant producer of large delicious sweet bean pods packed with easy to grow seeds.

How to eat Ice Cream Bean:
Twist the bean open or make a shallow cut down the side and pull it open lengthwise. you will see what looks like a bunch of white cotton inside the cotton are several large, dark brown flat seeds.  Eat the white cotton like pulp and plant the large dark brown seeds quickly. The seeds may have already sprouted inside the fruit, plant it quick while it is viable. The seed in the photo has already begun to sprout while inside the pod and still on the tree. As easily as these food producing trees grow there is no reason for anyone to go without. Plant the seed in a place that can accommodate a very large tree. Because this baby will be providing food for you and all of your friends before you know it.

Why we recommend trying Ice Cream Bean:
The Ice Cream Bean is rich in Vitamins A, B and C, fiber,protein and antioxidants. It has many health benefits from being an anti inflammatory food, immune booster and an antioxidant.

Find local farmers markets here and local grocery markets here.