Each year, after envisioning a layout for our garden, we make a list of the seeds we need to buy at our local garden store. We browse the racks staring at beautiful pictures of bountiful produce and inevitably add to our list with a handful of impulse buys.
One of our traditions is looking for something new and unusual that we haven’t grown before. Okra, Red Kuri squash, and Romanesco cauliflower have all shown up in our garden as a result. This year, my husband went for the fun factor and picked up a package of “yard-long” beans.
The yard-long bean is also known as a Chinese or Asian longbean and can often be found in Asian grocery stores. The variety we grew was 'Orient Wonder' by Botanical Interests, but you’ll find varieties of this bean available from a number of seed companies. While it can grow close to 30 inches long, which was very exciting for our 6-year-old to imagine, it is actually more pleasing if picked between around 12 inches, while the skin is still smooth and the seeds have not begun to thicken. Rest assured: A foot-long bean is still pretty fun to pick and prepare!
The plant itself is also quite lovely in your garden, growing up a trellis or bean tower like any other climbing pole bean. It can reach 9-12 feet in height, so be prepared to give it the space it needs to reach its full potential (for additional technical information, consult this guide from the USDA).
Preparing yard-long beans is a bit of a different story from other types of pole or bush beans. Our first attempt made us think that these beans were a little too tough for our tastes. While we enjoyed the entertaining task of eating the full foot-long bean, we were less than pleased with its texture.
On our second attempt, I did a bit more research into Asian recipes that are better-suited to the dense texture of these beans, like this one. They hold up really well to a high heat stir fry, and are wonderful with garlic and soy sauce or even a little heat. This time we enjoyed their texture, and no longer expected them to taste like “regular” beans — the result was much more pleasing and inspired to freeze a batch away for winter meals.
And yes, you can in fact cut them into more manageable pieces, but where’s the fun in that?
Carrie Williams Howe is the Executive Director of an educational nonprofit by day, and parent and aspiring homesteader by night and on weekends. She lives in Williston, Vermont, with her husband, two young children, and a rambunctious border collie. Carrie has a PhD in educational leadership and is passionate about being an authentic, participatory leader in various settings. She is a contributing editor at Parent Co Magazine. Connect with Carrie on The Happy Hive Facebook page. Read all of Carrie’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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