How to Grow Yardlong Beans
Who needs fertilizer? Heat and humidity seem to be the recipe for lush, productive yard long bean vines. They’re tasty, too — this is one oddball veggie you won’t just try once for novelty’s sake. The elongated pods really can reach a yard in length, though they are best at around 18″ or less, when they are still thinner than a pencil.
Just like green beans you can harvest them extra small as filet beans or let them get a little more plump to increase the food quantity. They can also be prepared and served in the same recipes. Instead of snapping yard longs into segments, line them up in a row and slice them in 2″ pieces with a knife.
If you’ve ever grown purple green beans you know that they lose their brilliant color when cooked. With yardlong beans the purple varieties intensify in color when they are exposed to heat. They come in many different colors with black, white, or mottled seeds. They can be used as a dry bean but are better as a fresh pod.
Yardlong beans also stand up better to high heat in cooking. They are much less fragile when cooked in a wok than regular green beans, which makes it harder to overcook them.
If you’ve ever grown pole green beans, you already know how to grow yardlong beans. They prefer warmer (average to rich garden) soil though, so direct seed them in the garden at the same time as your nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, etc.). That is usually 1 – 2 weeks later than your frost-free date. You also need a taller trellis — these beans will cover an arbor in no time. Tall bamboo tepees will also work perfectly. Though they will handle some drought, they grow faster and produce more tender beans if they are kept irrigated.
Yardlong beans have been less susceptible to typical legume pests and diseases in my garden. They seem nearly immune to bean beetles, fungal problems, and nutrient deficiencies. Leaf-footed bugs, who suck out vegetable juices through a straw-like mouth, also prefer traditional green beans to the yardlongs.
For a great selection of yard long bean varieties check out Kitazawa Seed Co. or Evergreen Asian Seeds. If you’d rather order from a catalog that has a wide variety of American seed varieties try Pinetree Seeds or Seeds of Change. Pick a white-seeded variety if you want it to taste similar to common green beans. Colored seed varieties like ‘Mosaic’ are fun with a slightly nutty flavor.
If you aren’t able to grow them yourself, they are turning up more frequently at Farmers Markets these days. You can also find them at Asian groceries.
Asian Stir-Fried Yardlong Beans
You will need a 14″ flat-bottomed wok & a food processor (or mortar & pestle)
- A few good handfuls of yard long beans (around 1 – 2 lbs)
- 1/2 cup minced onion OR thinly sliced scallions
- 1 tbsp chopped garlic
- Finely chopped chilis to taste, Thai chilis recommended
- 1/2 cup unsalted dry roasted peanuts
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 & 1/2 tbsp unrefined peanut oil
- 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
- Several sprigs of fresh basil (Thai if possible, licorice basil is also very good)
- lime wedges
- Salt to taste
- Steam or boil beans for 3 – 5 minutes, drain and transfer to bowl of ice water to stop them from cooking, prepare in advance and allow to air dry or pat dry, trim to 1″ – 2″ pieces
- Put half the peanuts in a food processor and process until finely ground. Add the rest of the peanuts and pulse until coarsely chopped. Alternately, grind half the peanuts in a mortar & pestle and coarsely chop the rest with a knife.
- Mix soy sauce and chilis in a small bowl
- Heat wok until a drop of water touching the surface evaporates immediately. Add garlic and stir fry until translucent, around 4 – 5 minutes. Then add peanuts and stir fry another 30 seconds. Add beans and stir fry until well coated, another 2 minutes. Add soy sauce, onions (or scallions) and stir fry another 30 seconds. Remove from heat and drizzle in lime juice, stir. Sprinkle with shredded basil and serve with lime wedges. Salt to taste.