Andean Nunas or "Popping beans"

Ian Staples ianst at
Tue Sep 28 06:06:14 EST 1993

A recent issue of _CIAT International_ (Vol. 12 No. 1, June 1993, Pp. 5-6)
had an article by Loretta Ferguson on "nunas" [with one of those Spanish
"~" things over both the "n"s].

Seems nunas are the legume equivalent of popcorn.  They are only known
from the high Andes.  Attempts to grow them elsewhere (e.g. at 1700 m
at Popayan in Colombia) have not been very successful.

Nunas are alleged to pre-date the Inca Empire and may be the "original"
bean.  The rationale for their development and use by these people in
the high mountains is that fuel is very scarce in such regions and normal
beans require *hours* of cooking to be edible because of the temperature
depression of boiling water at high altitudes [low pressure].  "But a
few minutes frying will pop the nunas." according to Dr Julia Kornegay,
the bean breeder at CIAT quoted in the article.

The Andean Indians eat them as a snack, side dish, or in soups.  Kornegay
says "Nunas have a lot of starch so their flavo[u]r is flat, dry and
powdery.  But popped nunas are soft and taste like a mix of peanuts 
and popcorn."  They can be popped in the microwave too, it seems.


1.  Are nunas simply a variety of _Phaseolus vulgaris_?  (If not, what
    are they?)  [Maybe the folk at CIAT think *all* beans are _P. vulgaris_,
    the article certainly didn't disclose the Latin binomial.]

2.  Has anyone tried them?  Are they *really* edible??  If you've tried
    them, would you eat them again?  Would you look for them in order
    to eat them again?

Any knowledge/experience of them out there?

Cheers,  Ian S.

P.S.  Note Followup-To:
Ian Staples                        E-mail : ianst at
c/- P.O. Box 1054 MAREEBA          Phone  : +61 (0)70 921 555 Home 924 847
Queensland Australia 4880            Fax  : +61 (0)70 923 593   "   "   "

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