Guar beans are small to medium in size, averaging 3-10 centimeters in length, and are long and narrow with tapered ends. The smooth pods are green when young and have a slightly slimy, soft texture. As the pods mature, they transform into a yellow-green, and beneath the smooth skin, there are visible clustered seeds. Each pod contains 5-12 seeds that can range in color from black, white, grey, to pink. Guar beans have a slightly bitter, green taste with a similar flavor to broad beans.
Guar beans are available year-round, with a peak season in the late fall.
Guar beans, botanically classified as Cyamopsis tetragonoloba, are a drought-resistant legume that is a member of the Fabaceae or bean family. Also known as Cluster beans, Guar beans have a large endosperm that contains high amounts of galactomannan gum. When ground into a fine powder and mixed with water, Guar beans turn into a thick gel that is eight times thicker than cornstarch and is known as Guar gum. This gum is used as a thickening agent in food, condiments, cosmetic products, and in processes for industrial drilling companies, and has increased the demand for Guar bean cultivation all over the world. In addition to processing the beans into a thickener, Guar means “cow food” in Hindi and historically was used as animal feed and as a fresh vegetable in India.
Guar beans contain dietary fiber, vitamins A, C, and K, manganese, calcium, iron, and potassium.
Guar beans are best suited for cooked applications such as sautéing, stir-frying, and roasting. Young Guar beans are consumed similarly to green beans and are popular in daals or lentil soups, stir-fries, curries, mixed vegetable sabzi, and pulav which is an aromatic basmati rice cooked with vegetables and dry nuts. Mature Guar is most often used in commercial applications and is harvested for the seeds within the pod. The seeds are dried and ground into a fine powder known as Guar gum. This gum is used as a thickener for soups, dough, dressings, ketchup, and puddings, as a stabilizer in cheeses, and a stiffener in ice creams and yogurt. Guar beans pair well with mustard seeds, turmeric, chili powder, coriander, garam masala, onions, garlic, tomatoes, potatoes, bell pepper, carrots, broccoli, and coconut. When fresh, they will keep 1-2 weeks when stored in the crisper drawer in the refrigerator.
Guar beans are currently being cultivated on a world-wide scale for their powdered form. Guar gum is providing drilling industries with a method to help break apart rock known as hydraulic fracturing. This process injects Guar gum with water into subsurface rock to increase viscosity and make the overall process of breaking the rock apart much more efficient. With this breakthrough, drilling companies are purchasing Guar beans at a much higher rate than the beans can be grown. This increase in demand has encouraged states such as Texas and Oklahoma to cultivate the beans to take advantage of the high prices and to provide a source local to the companies in the United States.
Guar beans are native to Asia and have been cultivated for centuries in India and Pakistan. They were then brought to the United States in 1903 and were widely cultivated in the 1950s. Today the majority of the world’s Guar is still grown in India and Pakistan and can be found through local markets, but it also is being grown in small areas in Australia, Africa, and the United States.
Recipes that include Guar (Cluster) Beans. One is easiest, three is harder.