Try Asparagus Beans This Year!

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.

Asparagus beans

These are the blossoms of the Asparagus Yardlong green bean. They seem to always come in twos and are gorgeous!

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!

Asparagus yard long beans

These plants grow tall, so prepare!

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.

Chinese yard long beans

This is one of the beans, about halfway grown. When ready to harvest, they are about 14-18 inches long (not really a yard long) and a little less in diameter than a #2 pencil. You can see the purple at the end of the bean, which fades a bit as the bean matures.

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!

Chinese asparagus beans

Not quite a yard, but these beans are really quite long!

 

Chinese Asparagus Green Beans

Cut the beans to fit into a wide mouth mason jar with about 1 inch head space, pack vertically, then pour in a vinaigrette. After a few days in the refrigerator they are delicious! Add a few jalapeno peppers for a spicy treat!

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.

Once the blossoms are pollinated, they turn yellow and then drop off. Here you can see two baby long beans - aren't they cute?

Once the blossoms are pollinated, they turn yellow and then drop off. Here you can see two baby long beans – aren’t they cute?  See the buds between the beans?  If you carefully cut the first beans when harvesting just right below the top of the actual bean, you won’t disturb the buds, and more beans will develop!

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!

Yard long green beans

Be prepared to either harvest with a ladder, or have room to let the bean plant fold over. You could even let this grow up and over an arbor and harvest from below!

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!

So…   while you are perusing your seed catalogs this winter, consider the long bean (or asparagus bean, yard long bean, etc.).  You won’t be sorry!0001

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18 thoughts on “Try Asparagus Beans This Year!

  1. hope you had a fantastic Christmas! These asparagus beans sound yummy and thanks for all the ideas on how to eat them too! Beans are usually great to have on hand in any form and I have about a dozen kinds in my garden bucket. I don’t think I have these though so will have to grab some! nom nom 🙂

    • I hope you do try these! The kids really enjoy watching them grow (about an inch+ every day!) and harvesting them, and because of this are more willing to eat them. At least, that’s my theory! I can’t wait to try the red ones this year – being red, I assume they will be easier to find. Have a wonderful New Year!

  2. This is the first time I’ve heard of such a bean. I’ll definitely try it this year. How much of the top part of the bean/stem do you leave on when you harvest it?

    • I am buying the seeds for the red one this year and I would love to share some with you! Use scissors to cut the bean about 1/4 inch from it’s stem. The upcoming buds are so tight to the stem, that if you try cutting the bean from the stem you will probably damage the new buds. I think that is why I had an ant problem – the ants were harvesting the little bit of moisture that wept from the cut, along with some of the nectar in the blossoms!

  3. Hi Vickie,
    those are great beans, and so long.
    We also have pole beans, which are on a grid ranken.Diese but not so lang.Es are also so many varieties of it.
    Best regards
    Uwe

    • Greetings, Uwe. The beans are very long and taste good! I will grow the long red ones this year to see if I like them also. Have a wonderful New Year, Uwe!

  4. Love what you’re doing here Vickie. I can’t believe the plant grows to be so tall! I enjoy eating asparagus and never really thought of growing some of my own, so this is certainly something for me to think about. #MondaysMusings

    • Hello Crystal, good morning! Although this variety is called asparagus beans, they don’t really taste like asparagus. Instead they taste much the same as the good old Kentucky Wonder or Contender pole beans. You should really try these because watching them grow is so amazing!

  5. Love your posts Vickie! I’m learning so much and so appreciate your sharing your “life lessons” as you build a new homestead. It’s always so interesting. When I see your post, I always go to it first to see what yall have been up to. It’s always a treat! Even the problems and issues you’ve run into are most educational. Thanks for sharing the “good and the trying” as you go along!

    • Yes, we have had quite a few hills to climb, but (generally) we have a positive attitude about our trials and failures. I’m not afraid to post stories about our flops either, because I hope others can learn from them and not have to face plant like I often do 😉 Besides, I hate those blogs that are all sunshine and roses, it always makes me wonder what’s growling in their closets! I am glad you enjoy reading my blog because I enjoy writing it! Thanks for your encouragement and kind words, Linda.

  6. I’ve grown these for about 15 years. They are wonderful. My husband won’t eat regular green beans but likes this variety. Just 2 of us and 4 plants provide plenty for me to put up for the year. I’m deep south so they have a long growing season. Until I read your post I didn’t know of anybody else growing this great green bean. I get the ants also.

    • Aren’t these the best?! I am buying seeds for the red ones to try out this year – maybe then I won’t miss so many of them before they get too mature! 🙂 Our growing season isn’t as long as yours, but by August these were pumping out the beans! Glad to know you get the ants also. I guess I won’t fret about them anymore. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Barbara. Have a wonderfully happy New Year!

  7. Wow, these sound great! We grew a few different types of beans last year and most were wonderful but one type was so stringy they were tough to eat. They were large beans, though, so I shelled them and dried the beans for soups. It’s the first year I discovered (quite by accident) that I could leave some beans on the vine to dry and then just shell them – what a game changer that is! I like the idea of having a ‘walk through’ arbor type thing for the beans – mine nearly took down a lilac they crawled into last summer. Up the fence, into the lilac…it bent nearly in half by the end of the season!

    • Me too! I learned about the dried bean thing completely by accident! Apparently, any green bean can be matured to the point of using them as dried beans. Who knew? Not me, but I do now! 🙂 My mom’s asparagus beans grew into her wisteria, up and over the trellis, bent over and ended up back on the ground. I’ll bet if we had measured, her bean plants would have actually been at least 15 feet long!

  8. How interesting. I have never heard of these and think I need to get online and order some! Thanks for sharing with SYC.
    hugs,
    Jann

    • You won’t be disappointed if you grow some this year, Jann. I am going to grow the red ones this year. Thanks for commenting!

    • I hadn’t heard of them either until my mother started growing them. Now, I can’t sing enough praises about them! There has been a lot of interest in these beans, so maybe next year I will save some so I can “spread the love”!

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