Cultivated for thousands of years, the lupin has long been an important crop for many Mediterranean cultures. Some varieties of this legume-family plant produce bitter, highly toxic seeds (beans) that must be soaked extensively before they can be safely consumed. It wasn't until the 1920s that non-toxic varieties were developed successfully. Such beans were called sweet lupin (as opposed to bitter) and require no soaking to rid them of toxicity. The most widely cultivated is the white lupin, a large, white, flat, circular bean reminiscent of the fava bean. This variety has cultivars that produce both sweet and bitter beans. There's also a white, sweet Andean lupin, also called tarwi or tarhui. Lupins are toasted, salted and eaten as a snack or served as an appetizer. They're also ground and used as flour. Such products are most commonly available through Internet ordering.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.