This crop was identified as having some potential for the southern areas of New Zealand by Mr Wayne Hutchinson, who attended a New Crops Conference in Atlanta in 2002. A quick search across a number of Internet sites came up with the following information. It is important to note that Crops for Southland does not have any experience with this crop and does not know if it can be grown successfully here.
Azuki, also known as 'red bean', has been consumed in East Asia for over 2,000 years in a myriad of ways that take advantage of the seed's maroon colour and delicate flavor; it is traditionally served on festive days such as weddings, birthdays, or New Year parties. Azuki is made into a sweet confectionery paste (an), candied whole beans (amanatto), a component of sweet soups (zenzai and sarashi ame), a mixture with rice (azuki-mochi and sekihan), sprouts (moyashi), or flour.
Azuki is or could be grown in climate zones with between 530 and 1730 mm of annual precipitation, a 7.8° to 27.8°C range in mean annual air temperature, a soil pH between 5.0 to 7.5 and up to 48degrees of latitude. However, current sites of major azuki production are between 40 and 45°N. Almost all production of azuki occurs in four countries: Japan, China, Taiwan, and South Korea. Other past or present azuki producing countries include Australia, the Philippines, Japan, the Republic of Congo, Thailand, India, Italy, New Zealand, USSR, China, Belgium, United States, Brazil, Argentina, Malaysia, Kenya, Zaire, and Angola. Japan produces about 90,000 t of azuki each year on about 64,000 ha, of which 60% is on the island prefecture of Hokkaido. Yields average about 1,500 kg/ha in Japan but can vary widely, especially on Hokkaido, depending mostly upon the length of the growing season, accumulated degree days and weather conditions.
Azuki is believed to have been introduced into the United States by the Perry expedition in 1854. The United States has never been a major world producer of azuki although the crop has been grown experimentally and/or on a limited production scale in several states over the past 130 years. Early adaptation experiments were conducted in Kansas, Virginia, and North Carolina, and it was used as a green fodder crop in some southern sections of the country.