The moth bean (Vigna acontilifolia) also called mat bean or Turkish gram in some parts of the world is native to India, Pakistan, and Burma. It is an important pulse crop of arid and semi-arid regions of India and Pakistan. It has multi-uses and adapts to extremes or uncongenial ecological niches particularly, in areas receiving fewer rains with erratic distribution.
Moth bean is a hot weather, drought resistant legume. The plant resembles a small mat, it is a ground-hugging plant and only about a foot high. The densely matted branches, which grow horizontally and have deeply notched leaflets on long leaf branches, are somewhat similar to the leaves of certain varieties of sweet potatoes.
The crop is generally grown in northwestern deserts regions of India and Pakistan especially in area where moong bean suffers from drought.
Production of moth bean varies greatly within India, and all production is consumed within the country.
In India, crop is extensively grown in Rajasthan mainly in Dholpur region as a mixed crop with cotton, sorghum and other pulses.
In India Moth bean is generally consumed as a rich source of protein. Moth bean is mostly consumed by low-income consumers in rural areas and in the tribal belts of Rajasthan, U.P, Punjab, Haryana and M.P.
Moth bean seed is used as human food in India and Pakistan. The seed is cooked whole or split and the green pods can be cooked and eaten as vegetables. Seeds are also processed in dhal (a sprouted bean paste) or bhujia (a salted snack
Moth bean is a Kharif crop and commonly sown in May and June with onset of first monsoon showers. Delay sowing could be done in June end or by mid of July. Moth bean can grow well in hot climates with 500-750 mm of annual rainfall; if as little as 50-60 mm rainfall falls as three to four showers during the growing period, a good yield can be obtained. Initial vegetative development is slow and weeds at this stage of the crop's growth can smother the seedlings. The crop matures in three months. Harvesting of crop is completed by August – September.
The moth bean plant resembles a small mat, for it is a ground-hugging plant and only about a foot high. The densely matted branches, which grow horizontally and have deeply notched leaflets on long leaf branches, are somewhat similar to the leaves of certain varieties of sweet potatoes. The hairy branches bear bright yellow flowers that develop into short (2-3 inches long) smooth pods. Each yellowish brown pod contains from four to nine seeds about the size of a large grain of rice. The root system is covered by spherical nitrifying nodules.
Moth bean is a hot weather, drought resistant legume. The climatic requirements have been compared to those for Southern peas, although moth bean is a short day plant. It could be grown in the spring and fall in most of Florida, and in the winter in South Florida. When seeded in early September in Gainesville, fair pod production was achieved by late November.
Cultural practices similar to those used for growing Southern peas should be followed for moth beans. Plant the seeds 3 inches apart and thin to 6 inches to allow for proper plant spread. The crop should mature in 2-3 months.
In India, green pods are eaten as a vegetable, and the tiny seeds are eaten whole or split. A favorite Indian method of preparation is to fry the seeds in a little oil. Seeds contain 22-24% protein, but nutritional experts say part of this protein is unavailable due to the presence of a trypsin inhibitor.