Yard Long Beans
This year while searching for a heat tolerant successor to plant after the potatoes were harvested, I discovered a gem. Yard long beans (aka: asparagus beans, Chinese long beans, snake beans) are a subspecies of cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) making them siblings of the familiar southern staple blackeyed peas. The major difference being that yard long beans are grown to be eaten as green pods, like a green bean, rather than being shelled when the fully mature seeds form.
Are They Really a Yard Long?
The more obvious difference is in the proportions of the pods themselves. Where “southern” peas mature to about the thickness of your pinky finger and maybe ten inches long, yard long beans are often harvested when a bit thinner than a pencil and fifteen to more than twenty-four inches long! The great similarity is in the heat tolerance that they share, making them perfect midsummer vegetable crops in Georgia’s oppressive summers.
The seed pack I purchased at my local home improvement store was a green podded variety. There are others on the market (online), including light green, silver-white, purple and red pods. Some of the colorful pods retain their color when cooked, others change to green or black when cooked. The flavor is not like a green bean; more similar to peas or asparagus.
How to Grow Yard Long Beans
Growing yard long beans is very much like growing pole beans. Be aware that they are aggressive growers when conditions are right (hot with a bit of rain). My eight-foot tee pees were topped out before I harvested the first batch of pods, and I expect to have the plants in place for another two months! Some suppliers offer “bush” varieties which may be useful in smaller spaces. Next year I plan on building an arch for them to grow over and shade leafy greens below.
How to Eat Yard Long Beans
Yard long beans are easy to prepare. You can start by blanching them for a couple of minutes and finish them off in a quick stir fry with oil, garlic and salt for a simple dish. They retain their crunchiness even after cooking. They do not taste like a regular green bean per se; their flavor tastes like a combination of asparagus and peas. Nonetheless, they make a great side dish and taste especially good glazed with soy sauce and honey!