Gardening: Growing Chinese Long Beans

Aug 28, 2011 by     34 Comments    Posted under: Gardening
Chinese Long Beans

Chinese Long Beans

Oh my gosh!  This is probably the funnest and coolest thing I’ve ever grown in my garden.  Chinese Long Beans, also known as Asparagus Beans and Yard Long Beans, are very common throughout Asia, but not too many people grow them here in the States.  Well that needs to change!  These prolific climbers produce beans that are 2-3 feet in length, and produce abundantly throughout the summer just like a normal green bean does.  They taste just like a regular green bean, though to me, seem a bit more mild, especially when raw.  Packed full of Vitamin A, they are great in stir fry or served up as a side dish.  They are wonderful!

How to plant Chinese Long Beans

Chinese Long Beans are aggressive climbers, so make sure to plant them next to a high trellis, fence, or pole.  I ran steel wire down from a garden obelisk this year for them to grow on.  They easily climbed that wire, reached the top of the obelisk, and then reached out to the tree branches above it and were on their way through the tree.  I should have let them go, but didn’t know if I’d have to climb the tree to harvest my beans, so I cut them down a bit.

Chinese Long Beans prefer full sun, so plant accordingly.  Plant just like you do a regular green bean, laying the bean on it’s side and planting to a depth of 1/2″.  Space the beans out 12″ from each other, whether in rows or grids.  The seeds will germinate in 10-15 days, and produce little seedlings that are pale yellow-green, which promptly send out climbing shoots.  Make sure you give them something to grab hold of.

Chinese Long Bean Seedling

Chinese Long Bean Seedling

Chinese Long Beans:  Giant Beans Make Giant Blossoms

Well, this makes sense, but I’m not sure I was really anticipating it.  These blossoms are huge!  They are roughly 2 inches square, which for a vegetable blossom, is pretty big.  But boy how beautiful they are!  They really are quite stunning.  The only way they could be better is if they had a sweet aroma, but alas, mine didn’t have a scent at all.  The beans usually grow in pairs, so you’ll usually find blossoms attached to each other as well, or one developing right after the first is done, like what’s seen in this picture (notice the little been growing right next to this blossom?):

Chinese Long Bean Blossom

Chinese Long Bean Blossom

When to Harvest Chinese Long Beans

Regular snap beans are pretty forgiving about being left on the vine.  Not so with Chinese Long Beans.  There is a fine line between them being perfectly crunchy and green, to them becoming pale colored and soft.  Pick the beans when about 1/4″ wide, about as thick as a pencil.  At this point, they are really just all pod.

As they get thicker, they begin developing their beans inside.  As those beans develop bigger, the pods shrivel and become dry and not delicious.  However, you can alternately just let all the beans develop, shuck them, and eat them as a dried bean.

As they mature, the bean pods can get up to 3 feet in length.  However, harvesting them when they are between 12-18″ is usually the best texture, thickness, and flavor.

The pods grow very fast, and you will find that you may need to harvest them daily to keep up with them.  That may sound daunting, but they can be refrigerated for 5 days and still seem very fresh and crisp.  Just stack them into a bundle and place in your vegetable drawer with high humidity, or place in a plastic zip top bag to keep fresh while refrigerating.

Chinese Long Beans Over 2 Feet Long

Chinese Long Beans Over 2 Feet Long

How to Cook with Chinese Long Beans

Every Chinese Food Buffet in the country serves up delicious wok fried Chinese Long Beans.  These are simply fried in oil along with some ginger, onion, and/or garlic, and seasoned with soy sauce, salt, and pepper.  When doing this, fry the beans in the oil first until the skin starts to shrivel and/or crack.  Then add the rest of the ingredients to season them with.

Wok Fry Chinese Long Beans

Wok Fry Chinese Long Beans

Cooked Chinese Long Beans

Cooked Chinese Long Beans

But you can also cook them up in a stir fry, put in a soup, or eat them raw in a salad.  Basically, use them wherever you would use a regular snap bean.  Just make sure to cut them into 2-3 inch pieces first….. a 2 foot long bean on your plate is a bit overwhelming!

The Bald Gourmet grows delicious and more unique vegetables in his gourmet garden, like Chinese Long Beans.

 

34 Comments + Add Comment

  • I live in Iowa and this is my second year trying to grow these beans. Last year, we were gone for a dozen days during a drought and came home and the vines were nearly dead and just a few beans about 1/3 the size they were supposed to be. This year, I planted as instructed on the package and had gotten wonderful vines but at the end of this season, only three beans. I did plant 4″ apart as per the package instructions and noticed you said every 12″. Also I only let them run about 8′ high. About 8′ away, I had pole and bush beans and they did wonderful. Do you have any suggestions on what I might try next year? We have to go to the Asian market to get these wonderul beans but they are so much better grown right at home. Thanks

    • Hi Dave. I have noticed that some years these beans produce prolifically, and other years not so much. They may be a bit temperamental. They like hot weather and lots of water it seems. Also, if you don’t pick the beans, the plant doesn’t seem to make many more. Try picking some early and see if the plants make twice as many. Having some flowers nearby to attract pollinators is always a good idea too.

  • I found your article looking for freezing the Asian Long Beans. My first crop ever and I love them! I use garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sprinkle of dried red peppers, 1 serano pepper, and mushrooms sauteed in sesame seed oil…peanut oil…or even olive oil. They are coming in so fast I cannot prepare them all fresh. Im going to try freezing the normal blanch method.

    • Hi Kelly. Thanks for the comment. Love me some long beans! Mine just started producing. I’m going wok fry some tomorrow for dinner. Your version sounds yummy

  • This is my 2nd year growing the delightful prolific Chinese green beans. They are still growing very well but their vine and the beans are a pale yellow/green. Should I use Ironite 7-6-6 perhaps one capful per 3 gal water directly into the soil, not on the vines or beans. So prolific, am sharing with 6 friends/neighbors.
    Thanx, Beverly

    • I’m glad you enjoy growing Chinese long beans too! They are so much fun. I’ve also had the same issue with leaves turning yellow and the beans being very light green. From what I’ve read on garden forums and such, adding iron to the soil very well may green things right up. I haven’t tried it myself yet, but it sounds like a good idea. Let me know if it works on your long bean plants. Mine are still small and nowhere near bearing yet. We get a late start here in Idaho. :(

  • Have grown them the last couple of years. Love them! My kids think they’re fun too! Some of them are as long as my toddler. Delicious as well – no stringy, toughness to contend with.

    • Thanks for commenting Michelle. Love those long beans!

  • Do you ever have any trouble with pests eating or destroying your bean plants?
    I bought yard long bean seeds from a Japanese seed company, based in California,
    and planted about 8 seeds in a long container on my top terrace. They grew well until reaching about
    8 inches then the newest leaves just sort of crumpled and then turned brown in areas
    and now all the plants are dying.
    I can’t find any holes or bites or seen any catipillars.
    I put out sticky yellow paper to catch any white flies, not were caught. I sprayed with garlic soapy water almost ever day but it didn’t do anything.

    I am so sad as I love Sichuan garlicy long beans.

    I am living in center of Mexico and days are hot now but nights cool down. Also its dry but I water a bit both morning and evening to make sure soil doesn’t dry out.

    Do you have any good suggestions?

    Sharron P.S. love your site!

    • Thanks for commenting Sharron. My long beans had similar problems last year too. Normally they grow just fine and yield a large crop. Not sure what the issue is. It’s possible that yours just didn’t like being in containers. Especially with Mexico heat. Try giving them some afternoon shade and water them well.

  • the young leaves are also edible :)

    • WHAT??? That is completely awesome. Thanks for sharing Ana!

  • Im at the end of my beans and have been preserving them by both freezing and canning. I recently started leaving them on the vine until they are no longer eatable as a a green bean but have thin skins and large beans inside.. Have you tried drying them to be used like a black eyed pea? I know they are in the family.
    I’ve been looking on line and have not yet found any answers. Thanks again for sharing.

    • I have not tried drying them, but have thought the same thing. I bet they’d be good. I believe great northern beans are the dried beans from plain old regular green beans. Couldn’t be too much different I suppose.

    • i have and they are wonderful…. plus letting them dry in the shells makes it easier for you to shell for peas or to keep as seeds for your next harvest, at least thats how my family does it here in Ga. good luck :)

      • Thanks Jenn. Going to try them now. :)

  • Hello everyone, I enjoyed all the great tips!!! And thanks for all the great pics, Bald Gourmet. This is my first summer garden and my long beans are amazing. I have new harvest daily right now. I live in zone 9 and have them planted in full sun in raised beds, they are very happy. My favorite way to prepare them is in an iron skillet. Start with bacon cut into small squares, when most fat is rendered down, add and saute red onions( ther more the better), when onions are in a sweat add garlic to taste, then put the blanched grean beans on top squirt with braggs amino acid, put a lid on and steam for 3 to 5 minutes., remove lid and saute until tender, stirring occasionally. Sometimes I also use sesame oil, in which case I also add a tablespoon or 2 of tahini, most delicious. Happy gardening!!! Have to finish freezing my long beans for thanksgiving.

    • Thanks for sharing Triva. Sounds delish! Glad the beans grew well for you. They are so much fun!

  • Thanks for a great article. I grew these for the first time this year. They are starting to produce, and I harvested once and sautéed them very simply. They were lovely. I had no idea, however, that they should grow to be 12-18″! I guess I have to resist them a bit longer next time. I’m hoping that harvesting a few early helped excellerate the plants’ production.
    Quick question: how would you freeze these? Briefly steam and then freeze? It was my understanding that these beans are for stir frying but not boiling. So what would you suggest to prep them for the freezer? Thanks!

    • Hi Suzanne. They are fun beans to grow aren’t they? I’ve only ever stir fried them or put them on Chinese omelets, and always end up eating them too fast to freeze. But I would think that a quick blanch in boiling water and then a dip in ice water before freezing would work fine for them, just as it does for regular green beans. Let me know how it goes. Mine have yet to start producing this year. :(

      • yes they hold up well freezing them …. hot water blanch and into ice water then a ziploc bag…will be yummy come january !

        • Thanks Elray!

    • I both steamed and boiled them. Just like regular fresh green beans only more tender. They are fun to serve uncut. You can get pretty creative with plating.

      • Ha! I bet. Nothing like a 2.5 foot been coiled around your dinner plate! Thanks for sharing Dee.

  • When you stir fry them. put a little smashed garlic in to add great flavor.

  • Great post on Asian Long Beans! I grow a rack or two in my ‘sun room’ container garden every year. Since the space is protected, but often very sunny, I can plant these beans (as well as Snow Peas) in mid-January! (Located in Western Oregon.) With both the beans and the peas, I usually start additional containers in late March and then repeat they cycle toward the end of summer, so I end up with beans and peas for about nine months. Both are prolific, so I have plenty to barter at our weekly market and I’m often the first with an edible crop to offer each season.

    My favorite recipe for Long Beans is to saute with the smallest bit of oil (try sesame oil), add a little grated ginger and/or garlic and a spoon of Black Bean & Garlic paste, thinning with small amount of chicken (or Veggie) broth. Just for fun, we’ve named this dish “Long Beans in Used Motor Oil, because that’s what it looks like! Enjoy.

    • I’m jealous of your sun room garden! My garden season is never long enough.

      Thanks for the recipe tip. I will give that a try with my beans this year. Sounds delish. Thanks for posting.

    • Cedarglen-I’d be interested in seeing a photo of your beans in an indoor container garden. Are you trellising?

  • Hi -

    I live in SC. When would be the best time to plant these beans? I saw a photo of them, then did a little checking into buying them, but haven’t found a “when”.

    Any hints would be appreciated.

    Pls put something about long beans on the subject line, so I know what it is.

    Thanks in advance – you have convinced me!!!

    Flo

    • Plant them after the last chance of frost just like you would normal green beans. For me here in Idaho, thats the 1st of June. I’m not sure about SC. They are serious climbers, so give them something to grow on. Their blossoms are beautiful, and their beans delicious and fun. They are different than regular green beans, but are awesome in stir fry or with some ground pork and ginger. Have fun with them Flo!

    • Flo – If you go to Burpee.com you can enter your zip code and they will tell you what zone you are and when you can plant these beans! Good luck with your beans!

      I wanted to know if you can plant them in pots or buckets? I plant other veggies in buckets and thy do well just not sure about beans. Any ideas!

      Thanks

      • Janet, I haven’t tried growing them in buckets personally, but don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t grow in them. They really aren’t much more demanding than regular green beans…. they just like lots of water.

        • Well – Potted beans it is then! I will kee you posted on the outcome! Thanks for the response!

          • I have these beans currently planted in buckets and they are growing like wildfire!

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I'm Jothan Yeager and I am The Bald Gourmet. After years of experimenting in my kitchen, creating delicious food and eating at amazing places around the world, I wanted a place to share my experiences with everyone. Thus the Bald Gourmet was born. I hope to open the doors of great food and great cooking to you, to inspire you to reach beyond prepared boxed meals, and to teach you of a world of deliciousness that has brought joy to me and those around me. Please enjoy the adventure which is The Bald Gourmet and share it with those you love.