Parkia speciosa L.

Bitter bean

Common names
English (Bitter bean, stink bean); Indonesian (pete, petai); Malay (chou dou, petai, petah, patai, patag, nyiring, cong dou); Thai (sator, sataw, sator dan, sator kow, to dan, to khao); Filipino (u’pang)
Bitter bean, leaves and flower stalks
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Tree info

Dimensions in meters 30 m
Maturity of tree before yields Up to 7 years
Productivity lifetime Perennial
Seasonality In its native habitats throughout Southeast Asia, flowering and fruiting occurs in two phases between January–March (smaller budding) and August–October.
Production zones and cultivation methods The plant grows in lowland rainforests and sometimes in tall, secondary forests on sandy, loamy and acidic soils. It can also be cultivated in waterlogged locations such as freshwater swamp forests and riverbanks.

Generally, seeds sprout rapidly, and the plant can be cultivated easily from cuttings. Each of the long pods contains 10-18 beans, which grow together in small clumps on the branch. They are harvested by climbing the trees or by knocking the pods down with long poles.


Per 100 g edible portion (EP)

Bitter beans are energy dense, containing high amounts of all key macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, fats and fibres). They are also rich in minerals and vitamins such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, vitamin C and E.
Energy (kcal) 266 kCal
% Daily Value (DV) *
Macronutrients Proteins: 16.8 g 34 %
Fats: 7.5 g 10 %
Carbohydrates: 33.1 g 12 %
Key Minerals Calcium: 186.6 mg 14 %
Iron: 2.5 mg 14 %
Phosphorus: 115 mg  9 %
Magnesium:   29 mg  7 %
Potassium:   341 mg  7 %
Key Vitamins Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C): 19.3 mg 21%
Alpha-tocopherol (source of Vitamin E): 4.15 mg  28%
Thiamine (Vitamin B1): 0.28 mg 23%
*All Daily Recommended Values are calculated using the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s recommendation guide.


Found in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand.


The seeds look like broad beans and are eaten either raw or cooked. The fresh pods can be pickled in salt and eaten raw, and the beans are often served alongside sambal (chilli paste) with fresh shrimps or dried prawns. In addition, they can be used as an ingredient in stews and fried rice dishes. The beans also have a garlicky flavour and emit a very strong odour, giving them the nickname “evil-smelling bean.” The smell has been compared to shiitake mushrooms. In the wild, these beans are a favourite for hornbills, monkeys, squirrels, deer, elephants and wild pigs.

On top of its edible uses, the species also has many reported health benefits. Rich in antioxidants, the beans are a popular folk medicine in the treatment of diabetes, hypertension, hypoglycaemia, kidney and liver problems, and to relieve gas. The seeds are sometimes applied externally to treat wounds and ulcers.

The wood is used for pulp to manufacture paper. It is also used in carpentry and to make furniture, cabinets, boxes, crates, matches, chopsticks and much more. P. speciosa can also be planted as a shade tree in agroforestry systems; they can be grown on coffee plantations and in nurseries.

Scientific references

  • Kamisah Y, Othman F, Qodriyah HM, Jaarin K. Parkia speciosa Hassk.: A Potential Phytomedicine. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:709028.

  • Chhikara, N., Devi, H.R., Jaglan, S. et al. Bioactive compounds, food applications and health benefits of Parkia speciosa (stinky beans): a review. Agric & Food Secur 7, 46 (2018).

  • Nur Hayati Azizul. Nutraceutical Potential of Parkia speciosa (Stink Bean): A Current Review. Am J Biomed Sci & Res. 2019 – 4(6). AJBSR.MS.ID.000842.


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