Gardening: Growing 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 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?):
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.
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.
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.