Inga edulis Mart.
Ice-cream bean, Guava machete, Inga cipo, Guavo-bejuco, Guava
Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.
- Folk Medicine
- Yields and Economics
- Biotic Factors
Plants cultivated for the edible white pulp of the fruits, eaten out of hand or
used in flavoring various desserts. Trees extensively used in Central and
South America for shade for cacao, coffee, tea and vanilla, especially at lower
altitudes, and for parks, avenues, and watershed preservation. Allen and Allen
(1981) note that Inga species have been associated with cacao and coffee
since pre-Colombian times, their desirability enhanced by their: (1) rapid
growth for quick shade, (2) ability to withstand drastic pruning, (3)
usefulness in maintaining soil fertility, and (4) effectiveness in preventing
erosion. Colombian Indians prepare an alcoholic beverage from the aril. The
beverage, called cachiri, is consumed at a festival of the same name. Choco
Indians of Panama use this or related species for making their upright house
beams, believing they do not rot in contact with the soil (Duke, 1970). Nearly
half the Choco houses have this tree cultivated nearby.
According to Garcia-Barriga (1975), nearly all Colombian species of Inga
are used in popular medicine. Decoctions of the leaves and bark are used as
astringent in diarrhea, as a lotion for arthritis and rheumatism. The root
decoction is used for diarrhea or dysentery, considered more effective if mixed
with the rind of pomegranate. Bark and fruit are used for dropsy and
irritations of the raucous lining of the intestines. Cuna Indians used the
plant as a nervine for headaches (Duke, 1975).
Seeds of Inga edulis, eaten as vegetables, are reported to contain per
100 g, 118 calories, 63.3% moisture, 10.7 g protein, 0.7 g fat, 24.0 g total
carbohydrate, 1.6 g fiber, 1.3 g ash. Pulp of Inga spp. contains per
100 g, 60 calories, 83.0% moisture, 1.0 g protein, 0.1 g fat, 15.5 g total
carbohydrate, 1.2 g fiber, 0.4 g ash. Dried seeds of Inga spp. contain
per 100 g, 339 calories, 12.6% moisture, 18.9 g protein, 2.1 g fat, 62.9 g
total carbohydrate, 3.4 g fiber, 3.5 g ash. Seeds of the genus Inga are
reported to contain trypsin inhibitors and chymotrypsin inhibitors.
Small trees up to 17 m tall, with broad spreading crown, almost flat; bark
gray; trunk usually contorted, cylindrical, 30 cm or more in diameter and
branching 12 m from base; leaves simply pinnate, 1030 cm long, with 46 pairs
of large oval leaflets, each pair separated by a winged rachis, the smallest
pair below, the terminal leaflet 1.5 dm long and half as broad, membranous,
minutely pubescent on both surfaces; flowers fragrant, sessile, solitary,
arranged in crowded heads at tips of stems, peduncles 24 cm long, or flowers
may be solitary in upper axils and fasciculate and subcorymbose below; calyx
puberulent, striate, 58 mm long; corolla silky-villous, 1420 mm long;
bractlets oblong-lanceolate, about 5 mm long, caduous by full anthesis; pods
with very thickened sulcate margins, 4-angled, up to 2 m long, 13 cm in
diameter, flat or twisted, with white sweet pulp surrounding the seeds. Fl.
Feb.May; fr. several months later.
Assigned to the Middle America Center of Diversity, ice-cream bean, or
cultivars thereof, is reported to exhibit tolerance to heavy soil, slope, and
waterlogging. (2n = 26).
Native to Central and South America, from Mexico Southward. Introduced to
Tanzania, and probably elsewhere in the tropics.
Abundant along margins of large rivers; common in thickets usually below the
high-water mark, and in wooded swamps. Also in ravines, upland woods at edge
of rivers and adjacent rainforests. Requires a tropical climate with plenty of
moisture. Found from sea level to 2,200 m where there is no frost. Ranging
from Subtropical Dry to Moist through Tropical Dry to Wet Forest Life Zone,
ice-cream bean is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of 6.4 to 40.0 dm
(mean of 9 cases = 16.9 dm), annual mean temperature of 21.3 to 27.3°C (mean
of 9 cases = 25.1°C), and pH of 5.0 to 8.0 (mean of 7 cases = 6.6).
Propagates naturally by seeds in the forest. Planted from seedlings grown in
nursery and then arranged so as to give maximum shade to coffee, tea or cacao
plants grown beneath.
Fruits are harvested when ripe for the pulp, as needed. No great amount of
fruit is harvested at once. Once established, trees provide shade, for many
years over the undercrop of coffee, tea or cacao.
Fruits are produced periodically, and nearly continuously. Plants cultivated
locally for the fruits in various tropical countries, as in South America,
Hawaii, West Indies, and East Africa. Trees also extensively used for shade of
coffee, tea, and cacao, especially in Central America.
Cuttings from Inga trees, which need constant pruning, furnish fuel. I
estimate that the prunings from Inga as a coffee shade tree might add up
to 5 MT/ha/yr, the pods, to 2 m long, might contribute significant biomass, and
the aril can be fermented to make alcohol. Yield figures are not available.
The species is reported to have N-fixing nodules. Inga jinicuil
has been reported to fix 35 kg N/ha.
The following fungi are reported: Bitzea, ingae, Catacauma, ingae, Fusarium
semitectum var. majus, Perisporium truncatum, Peziotrichum saccardinum,
Phyllosticta ingae-edulis, Ravenelia ingae, Rhizoctonia solani, and
Uredo, ingae. Trees are also affected by a mosaic virus and witches broom.
Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
- Allen, O.N. and Allen, E.K. 1981. The Leguminosae. The University of Wisconsin
Press. 812 p.
- Duke, J.A. 1970. Ethnobotanical observations on the Choco Indians. Econ. Bot.
- Duke, J.A. 1975. Ethnobotanical observations on the Cuna Indians. Econ. Bot.
- Garcia-Barriga, H. 1975. Flora medicinal de Colombia. Botanica Medica. Talleres
Editoriales de la Imprenta Nacional. Bogota.
Last update Wednesday, January 7, 1998 by aw