Orphan, or underutilized, legumes are domesticated legumes with useful properties, but with less importance than major world crops due to use and supply constraints. However, they play a significant role in many developing countries, providing food security and nutrition to consumers, as well as income to resource-poor farmers. They have been largely neglected by both researchers and industry due to their limited economic importance in the global market. Orphan legumes are better adapted than the major legume crops to extreme soil and climatic conditions, with high tolerance to abiotic environmental stresses such as drought. As a stress response they can also produce compounds with pharmaceutical value. Orphan legumes are therefore a likely source of important traits for introduction into major crops to aid in combating the stresses associated with global climate change. Modern large-scale genomics techniques are now being applied to many of these previously understudied crops, with the first successes reported in the genomics area. However, greater investment of resources and manpower are necessary if the potential of orphan legumes is to be unlocked and applied in the future.