The Spring inga bean is rather bitter but the aril, which fills the pod, is sweet and tasty. In El Salvador, they eliminate the bitter principle of the bean by adding ash to the cooking water. The beans must be washed before eating.
Its wood is used for fuel.
The spring inga (and others Inga species) is the central part of an agroforestry system called “Inga alley cropping” because it adds nitrogen to the soil, but also prevents soil erosion and produces shade for sensitive crops such as coffee or cocoa.
One of the Biodome's researchers, Robert Davidson, was involved in an experimental agroforestry project in the Amazon where he integrated Inga edulis (a close relative of the spring inga) with the crops of participating farmers. The foliage of this small tree could be used as a green manure which, he hoped, would make the traditional burning of cultivated land unnecessary. Burning quickly returns nutrients to the soil, but these nutrients are quickly leached to streams when it rains.
Despite its advantages, the “Inga alley cropping” system is very difficult to spread in the Amazon, farmers remaining very attached to the traditional “Slash-and-burn agriculture”.