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the web of life in southern Africa

Vigna subterranea (Jugo bean, Bambara groundnut, African groundnut)

[= Voandzeia subterranea]

Jugoboon [Afrikaans]; ditloo-marapo [Sotho]; izidlubu [Zulu]

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Eudicotyledons > Core Eudicots > Rosids > Eurosid I > Fabales > Family: Fabaceae > Subfamily: Papilionoideae > Genus: Vigna

Vigna subterranea (Jugo bean, Bambara groundnut, African groundnut)

Jugo beans. [photo H.G. Robertson, Iziko ]

Jugo bean is native to West Africa but is now grown widely as a crop in the tropical regions of Africa. It has the advantage of being able to be reasonably productive even under extreme conditions such as drought and poor soil. It is similar to Arachis hypogea (Groundnuts) in that the flowers curl down into the ground so that the pods end up developing and maturing underground. Otherwise, the two plants are quite different in appearance. Each pod has only one or two seeds. It is regarded as being vastly underestimated and undeveloped as a crop plant (van Wyk and Gericke 2000). There is still considerable potential for selective breeding to improve favourable characteristics of the plant, such as seed size.

Jugo bean is often intercropped with maize and pumpkin. Plants are harvested about four months after sowing and harvesting simply involves pulling the plants out of the ground. Yields are in the region of 1000 kg per hectare.


  • Young seeds are eaten raw or cooked.
  • Mature seeds if eaten whole are soaked in water and then boiled, or roasted in oil. In Limpopo Province, they are boiled in the pod and then the soft seeds are eaten as a snack. This crop is of sufficient significance to the Venda in Limpopo Province that they hold a harvest ritual for it, as they also do for African finger millet.
  • Mature seeds can also be pounded into flour.
  • Seeds are canned commercially in Zimbabwe. However, in Africa most of the production of Jugo beans is eaten locally.


  • van Wyk, B.-E. & Gericke, N. 2000. People's Plants. A Guide to Useful Plants of Southern Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria.