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Lupine — like a wolf — is pretty but dangerous

By on May 30, 2018 in Columnist with 0 Comments

By Jaana Hatton

Bluish, purplish, even white — these are the colors of lupine flowers in first bloom until they dry and turn brown.

Their colors delight us through the spring and early summer.

The plant likes dry, well-drained soil — except the wetland lupine, which of course thrives in a wet environment.

There are an astonishing amount, up to 600 varieties, of lupine: Texas bluebonnet, Coulter’s lupine, Nootka lupine… I won’t list them all.

But I will tell you the basic characteristics: the plant is either herbaceous or woody, depending on the variety. It grows between one to five feet in height. It has several stems with palmately divided leaves. Flowers grow up along the stalk in tiered whorls, forming an overall cone shape.

The name “lupine” may refer to its wolflike (lupus) ability to thrive in distant locations where wolves also dwell.

Another explanation is that the plant ravages the soil like wolves attack their prey.

Lupines have been around since time immemorial, all around the globe. The Egyptians cultivated them as did the Incans.

In the present day, Russia is the prime agricultural producer of lupine.

Here in the Northwest, the plant lives happily all on its own, as a wildflower.

Why cultivate the lupine?

Because it’s full of beans. Lupines are in the fabaceae (pea) family. Their pods each contain two or more edible beans. But beware: this is no fast food! In its raw state, the lupine bean contains toxic alkaloids.

In order to make the beans edible, they must be soaked in seawater for two to three hours. Or, if you use dried beans, the soaking process in fresh water can take up to two weeks.

Why go through the trouble?

Because lupine beans are an excellent source of protein and fiber. They can also aide in digestion, anemia, skin condition, immunity and bone strength, just to mention a few benefits.

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