It’s time to buy seeds for this coming spring, so let me tell you about one of my favorites…
My mother has been growing the most wonderful asparagus “yard long” green beans for a few years now. Last year I asked her to save some seeds for me so that I might try growing the bean myself. My mother got her bean seeds from her sister, my Aunt Sue, who got her seeds from an on-line seed company.
On the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds website, they have one called Chinese Green Noodle Bean that looked similar, but not exactly like my beans. On the Johnny’s Seeds website they have some called Gita, which are again pretty close, but not exactly the same. Over at Park Seed, they have one called Orient Wonder Yardlong, and at Mary’s Heirloom Seeds there is a Chinese Red Noodle Bean. Check it out HERE. I can’t wait to try that one out!
My Aunt Sue got hers from Burpee, and they are called Asparagus Yardlong pole beans. I prefer to grow only organic, non-GMO, heirloom plants, and was glad to see that these were, indeed heirloom!
Most long beans are of the vigna unguiculata subsp. sesquipedalis. Sesquipedalis in Latin means “foot and a half long”, and this subspecies which arrived in the United States via Asia is characterized by unusually long pods, which lead to the common names of yardlong bean, asparagus bean and Chinese long-bean.
The plant is a different genus from the common bean, but like the common bean, is a vigorous climbing annual. It’s actually a variety of cowpea! When I was doing some research on the long bean, I read that the plant will attract many pollinators including ants and yellowjackets. In fact, my plants had lots of ants, and I mistakenly had tried getting rid of them with a home made solution of olive oil, dish soap and jalapeno pepper juice! That was a classic hand-to-forehead moment. 🙂 In hindsight, the ants weren’t doing any harm (they weren’t farming aphids on the plant), so next year I will just leave them alone to pollinate.
The pods on my long bean plant hung in groups of two. My mother showed me how to harvest the beans, cutting the bean off the plant at the top of the actual bean, because the plant will set more beans on the same stem if it isn’t damaged by harvesting! My plants were a bit slow to get started, and I will assume that’s because I don’t live in a subtropical climate, which is where these beans originated. Also, I didn’t amend the soil much where I planted them (I have some serious mountain clay) and only gave them a bit of fertilizer, but once the plants started to flower and produce pods – hoooeee – I got a lotta beans!
Just five or six bean pods make a side meal for Ray and I. They are really good when marinated (just about any marinade is great) and thrown on the barbeque grill. The best part is that they are so long, one rarely falls through the grates! The beans are also excellent in a stir fry. They are virtually stringless but stay fairly crisp and crunchy when boiled, barbequed, baked, etc.. Throw them in beef stew or roast them with tomatoes, peppers and onions – yum-o!
To preserve them, I think canning (jarring) is best. I also like cutting them long enough to fit into pint sized canning jars, pouring in a vinaigrette, and letting them steep in the fridge for a few days. Mmmmm… just like pickled green beans, but still with a nice crunch! Blanching and then freezing them makes them a bit mushy, though palatable. I would like to try dehydrating the beans, but this season’s crop is pretty much done, so I will have to wait to try this next year.
If you have room in your garden, you should certainly try some long beans. The kids love growing them! Be aware, however, that the beans are not only long, but the plant itself is “long” also!
The bean plant grows very, very tall – at least 10 to 12 feet tall! To handle this, let them get about 6-8 feet tall, let them crawl over the top of something (strings? Wire? Another trellis?) and then down the other side. If you can walk under the plant, it makes finding and harvesting the beans easier.
Oh, and those beans you didn’t see on the vine until they have matured beyond fresh eating? Harvest the pods, let the beans dry out completely, and they can be cooked just like any other dried bean. Delicious!
I plan to grow these beans again this next spring. Although mine were a bit slow to get started, I harvested some of the beans after they were fully matured, so that I could save the bean for planting again. Hopefully, if I select the best beans from the best plants year after year, they will acclimate to my elevation, climate and soil conditions, and my harvests will get better and better!
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