Marama Bean

Tylosema esculentum


Marama bean is a drought tolerant plant native to southern Africa, where it can grow in the driest conditions.

Other names include Camel's foot, Gemsbuck beans, and tamani berry.

The perennial plants are harvested from the wild and cultivated, although not on as wide a scale as many researchers and anti-hunger advocates would like. It is one of several drought tolerant, indigenous plants that researchers say are much better suited to growing in Southern Africa than the imported crops encourged by many aid agencies.

The seed has a protein content and quality similar to soybeans and oil content similar to peanut. The tuberous roots are also edible.

Seeds contain strong trypsin inhibitor and should only be eaten after cooking. Seeds are usually roasted, but also boiled. The taste is prized, after roasting they have a delicious flavor said to be similar to roasted cashew nuts.

Small tender roots are baked, boiled or roasted when they reach about 1kg, before two years. If allowed to fully mature, roots can grow to larger than a basketball and are an important source of emergency water for bushmen and others in the Kalahari desert.

The beans are boiled with maize meal, or ground and pounded to a powder for making porridge or a cocoa-like beverage. The oil resembles almond oil.

It is being successfully cultivated in Perth, Australia and in the U.S.


Seeds must be warm and scarified to ensure germination. In nature they germinate when a rainstorm sweeps through, so water well after planting.

The plant prefers moist neutral to acid soil or sand that should never be waterlogged.

Post-Harvest and Packing

Raw seeds store well and are edible for many years.

Nutritional Information

Tubers are 9 percent protein (compared to 5 percent protein in the potato and 7 percent in the yam). Leaves make a good livestock fodder. Seed nutrition considered similar to soy bean.

Found in:

Flag of South Africa
marama, morama