Plate 79 Vigna radiata

Phaseolus luteus

(Mung bean)

Endeavour River Australia

17th June – 4th August 1770

Originally known as Phaseolus luteus, or P. radiata, this was collected from the Endeavour River area of Australia between 17 June and 4 August 1770. The Mung bean was already being grown for food widely across Asia, but the specimens collected in Australia were probably the wild type V. radiata var. sublobata, which is found throughout the Indian subcontinent and Myanmar and across Northern and Eastern Australia.

Also known as green gram (as opposed to ”black” mung, Vigna mungo),  maash (Iran) and moong, the name is derived from the Sanskrit root “mudga”. The cultivated form seems to have been bred independently in Iran/North India (where carbonised mung beans from the Harappan culture have been dated to around 4,500 years ago) and in South India, where it dates back at least 4,000 years.  It is now cultivated across Asia, in North Africa and Central America.

The plant grows as a climber with yellow flowers, and seed pods that turn brown as they ripen. As a member of the peaflower family, it is a nitrogen fixer, so valuable as a rotation crop as well as for food; in rice growing areas, it is often grown between rice crops to improve soil fertility. It is tolerant of a wide range of soil types and conditions. It is mostly insect-pollinated, but is also self-fertile.

It is a staple ingredient in many cuisines, used in both sweet and savoury dishes; it can be used as whole beans, dehulled and made into a dal, or as a paste; it is commonly served with rice, as bean soup, as ice cream (!), as pancakes, dumplings, stew or pastries – and made into a sweet soft drink. It is also sprouted and used as bean sprouts, and mung bean starch is made into noodles and jellies.

Sue Thomason


  • PFAF plant database, Kew, Wikipedia, Natural History Museum, Plants of the World online.