Money may not grow on trees, but in tropical swaths of Central and South America, you can find foot-long candy bars dropping from tree branches. Produced by Inga trees rather than Hershey’s or Mars, ice cream beans are legumes, and like many seeds, they appeal to our sweet tooth to spread. If you split open the pod-like legume, you’ll find lima-bean sized seeds wrapped in a white, fluffy covering that looks like cotton candy and tastes like vanilla ice cream.
As far as vending machines go, Inga trees are on the generous side. They grow tall enough (60 feet or more) that farmers plant them for timber and shade for other crops. This means plenty of ice cream beans, and naturalists have found sweet, sweet pods that measure over six feet.
In countries such as Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia, locals eat ice cream beans raw. So do monkeys and other animals that enjoy the treat. But only humans can roast the otherwise inedible seeds as a snack and mix ice cream beans into chocolate, coffee, or cream.
Need to Know
You can find ice cream bean sold in markets. If you're outside Central or South America, it's worth researching whether someone is growing Inga trees near your home.