If you like green beans, there’s a humdinger of a bean out there. Uncommon in most American’s veggie gardens, but a veritable staple in many Asian gardens, I give you the Chinese long bean, also known as the yard long bean, snake bean or asparagus bean. So what is a yard long bean? Read on to learn more.
What is a Yard Long Bean?
In my neck of the woods, the Pacific Northwest, a large majority of my friends and neighbors are of Asian origin. First generation or second generation transplants, long enough to enjoy a cheeseburger but not so long as to dismiss the cuisines of their respective cultures. Therefore, I am quite familiar with the yard long bean, but for those of you who are not, here’s the run down.
The Chinese long bean (Vigna unguiculata) truly lives up to its name, as growing yard long bean plants having pods of up to 3 feet (.9 m.) in length. The leaves are bright green, compound with three heart shaped smaller leaflets. Both flowers and pods are usually formed in joined pairs. The blooms are similar in appearance to those of the regular green bean, with the color varying from white, to pink to lavender.
Long Bean Plant Care
Start Chinese long beans from seed and plant them just like a regular green bean, about ½ inch (1.3 cm.) deep and a foot (.3 m.) or so out from each other in rows or grids. Seeds will germinate between 10-15 days.
Long beans prefer warm summers for maximum production. In an area such as the Pacific Northwest, a raised bed in the sunniest area of the garden should be selected for cultivation. For additional long bean plant care, be sure to transplant only once the soil has warmed, and cover the bed for the first few weeks with clear plastic row cover.
Since they like warm weather, don’t be surprised if it takes awhile for them to really begin to grow and/or set flowers; it can take two to three months for the plants to flower. Just like other climbing bean varieties, Chinese long beans need support, so plant them along a fence or give them a trellis or poles to climb up.
Chinese yard long beans mature rapidly and you may need to harvest the beans daily. When picking yard long beans, there is a fine line between the perfect emerald green, crunchy bean and those that are becoming soft and pale in color. Pick the beans when they are about ¼-inch (.6 cm.) wide, or as thick as a pencil. Although as mentioned, the beans can attain lengths of 3 feet, the optimal picking length is between 12-18 inches (30-46 cm.) long.
Packed full of vitamin A, the sheer novelty will have your friends and family begging for more. They can also be kept in the fridge for five days placed in a sealable plastic bag and then in the vegetable crisper with high humidity. Use them as you would any green bean. They are awesome in stir fries and are the bean used for the Chinese green bean dish found on many Chinese restaurant menus.