This flat, yellow bean native to the Mediterranean basin, has been cultivated since ancient times. A three-hour soaking in water removes a bitter taste. Occasionally eaten roasted as a snack.
Lupin or Lupini Beans are yellow legume seeds of the lupinus genus plant, most commonly the Lupinus luteus or Yellow Lupin, and were once a common food of the Mediterranean basin and Latin America. Today they are primarily eaten as a pickled snack food.
Lupini Beans are commonly sold in a brine in jars (like olives and pickles) and can be eaten by making a small tear in the skin with your teeth and “popping” the seed directly into one’s mouth, but can also be eaten with the skin on. Accomplished lupini eaters learn to fissure the skin by rubbing the bean between forefinger and thumb.
These legumes were popular with the Romans and they spread their cultivation throughout the Roman Empire. Today, Lupini are most commonly found in Mediterranean countries and their former colonies, especially in Portugal, Italy, Brazil, as well as Egypt (where it is part of Sham El Nessim holiday meals), Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Palestinian Territories, Turkey , Chicago’s Little Italy and in New York City’s Spanish Harlem, where it is popularly served with beer. In Portuguese the Lupini Beans are known as tremoços, as altramuz (a name derived from Arabic الترمس) in Spain and Argentina, and in Antalya Province, Turkey it is known as tirmis.
These lupins are referred to as sweet lupins because they contain smaller amounts of toxic alkaloids than the bitter lupin varieties. Newly bred variants of sweet lupins are grown extensively in Germany; they lack any bitter taste and require no soaking in salt solution. The seeds are used for different foods from vegan sausages to lupin-tofu or baking-enhancing lupin flour. Given that lupin seeds have the full range of essential amino acids and that they, contrary to soy, can be grown in more temperate to cool climates, lupins are becoming increasingly recognized as a cash crop alternative to soy.
Three Mediterranean species of lupin, Blue Lupin, White Lupin and Yellow Lupin (L. luteus) are widely cultivated for livestock and poultry feed. Both sweet and bitter lupins in feed can cause livestock poisoning. Lupin poisoning is a nervous syndrome caused by alkaloids in bitter lupins, similar to neurolathyrism. Mycotoxic lupinosis is a disease caused by lupin material that is infected with the fungus Diaporthe toxica; the fungus produces mycotoxins called phomopsins, which cause liver damage.
Lupins are currently under widespread cultivation in Australia, Europe, Russia, and the Americas as a green manure, livestock fodder and grazing plant, and high protein additive for animal and human foods. In Australia, the danger of cross-pollination of the wild bitter and cultivated sweet low-alkaloid variety is understood to be unacceptable when testing reveals the presence of one bitter bean per hundred sweet beans, and a wide quarantine zone is maintained around lupin-growing croplands to prevent wind-blown wild pollen from having a large influence on crop toxicity.