Long beans got their name because they are long, as long as 18 inches. They come from a fast-growing annual plant that requires trellis or support unless the long bean plant is a dwarf type. It produces blue or violet flowers and thin, green pendulous pods we call long beans, which are harvested while immature and consumed as green vegetables.
The long bean is also known by its other names, and there are several of them – long-podded cowpea, yardlong bean, asparagus bean, asparagus bean plant, snake bean, pea bean, Chinese long bean, and Chinese snake beans. Even the varieties have interesting names, like Fowl’s Gut Bean and Yak’s Tail.
Besides the many different names in English, they also have a local name varying from place to place. In the West Indies, it is called bora; in the Philippines, it is called sitaw; in China, it is called dau gok or dow gauk. The Hmong people call it Taao-hla-chao. Long beans are judia esparrago in Spanish, haricot asperge in French, and jurokusasagemae in Japanese.
Species: V. unguiculata
Binomial name: Vigna unguiculata
Cultivar group: ‘sesquipedalis’
Cultivar: Asparagus bean
Long Bean Trivia
- Long beans are considered “ancient vegetables” because they have been in existence for a very long time.
- Long beans appear to be similar to green beans but the truth is their close relative is the blackeyed pea.
- Besides worrying about pests, you should also be on guard for bigger animals because deer, small mammals, even birds enjoy feasting on long beans, according to USDA NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service).
Long Bean Buying Guide
Long beans are sold in abundance during summer. When buying, check for any discoloration, bruising, browning, or holes. Avoid long beans that have these. When you touch it, long beans should not feel overly dry or too wrinkly. Overall, long beans are sturdy and there should be no problem buying them from the grocery, supermarket, farmers market, or farm stand.
You can see them sold by the bunch and tied by a string on one end. You’ll find this in the produce section of the supermarket, or at Chinese/Southeast Asian specialty produce stores.
Long Bean Production & Farming in Texas
Long beans love heat and warm weather. Plant long beans once the threat of frost has passed. Plan ahead. Make sure that you give your long bean plants at least 75 days of frost-free weather. It requires loose, well-draining soil and full sun. The soil should have a pH ranging from 6.0 to 7.5 to ensure optimal growth of the plant. Plant the seeds directly to the ground. Make sure they have a support system they can climb as the plant grows. Water the plant with one inch of water once per week. Do not worry because long beans are drought-tolerant; however, failing to get enough water will affect the quality of the long beans it will produce.
Long beans can grow in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 10. This means it can be grown in any part of Texas.
Growers familiar with long beans know that the best size to harvest long beans is when they are between 10 to 12 inches long.
If you are considering growing long beans, here are some varieties:
- Purple Podded
- Red Noodle
- Stickless Wonder
- Yard Long
Pesticides are used in long beans to eradicate pests and prevent future infestations caused by the following pests.
- Aphids – Kill aphids using neem oil, insecticidal soap, or horticultural oil. You can also use the pesticide malathion, which is the most commonly used organophosphate insecticide in the United States, or rotenone, a selective, non-specific insecticide typically used in home gardens for insect control.
- Whiteflies – Malathion or Pyrethrins are effective against whiteflies.
- Leafhopper – Use pyrethroid insecticides like bifenthrin, organophosphates insecticides like malathion, pyrethrins, or any systemic insecticide (acephate, imidacloprid, or disulfoton).
- Spotted maize beetle – The use of man-made pesticide carbaryl is the solution to get rid of beetles. Other options include pyrethroid insecticides like cyfluthrin and Lambda cyhalothrin, pesticide malathion, pyrethrin spray, permethrin insecticide, and spinosad. You can also use Kaolin clay, Beauveria bassiana, and/or botanical insecticides.
- Bean bug – Bug sprays are effective against this pest. Use man-made pesticide carbaryl to rid of bugs.
- Thrips – To kill thrips, there is a wide array of options to choose from: horticultural oil, insecticidal soap, anti-parasite spray spinosad, or pyrethrin pesticides with piperonyl butoxide.
- Bean pod borer – Using pesticides to fight bean pod borers is not recommended because of many reasons. First, pesticides will kill insects that prey on bean pod borers. The second reason is this: pesticides are largely ineffective since caterpillars are hidden most of the time inside the pods. Also, pesticides are expensive, and using them may lead to the development of moths resistant to the pesticide. You may want to consider these tips. Never plant next to infested crops. Make time to inspect your plant and if there are signs of bean pod borers, handpick them. Grow beans between rows of corn or sorghum. Many African countries use this method because it is effective in keeping bean pod borers away. Finally, make sure to collect crop debris after harvest and destroy them. An insecticide helps deal with this process. Pick a plant-derived product (e.g. neem, derris, and pyrethrum, with the addition of soap). Use spinosad and Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies kurstaki). Use rotenone insecticide. Try synthetic pyrethroids also, although this will bean pod borer’s natural enemies.
- Spider mites – To get rid of spider mites, use neem oil and apply it through foliar spraying. It contains azadirachtin which is effective against spider mites. You can also use horticultural oil (which also targets aphids and thrips). Pests die after exposure to horticultural oil due to suffocation since the oil blocks the spiracles through which insects breathe. Another effect of horticultural oils is disrupting the metabolism of insect eggs. Lastly, horticultural oils disrupt the insect’s ability to feed. As a result, the insect starves to death. Using pyrethrin spray is also an effective method against spider mites. Another option is spinosad, a mixture of two chemicals called spinosyn A and spinosyn D typically used to control a wide variety of pests.
- Bean Fly – Use imidacloprid.
Long beans are grown wild in tropical Africa. Some historians believe this is where long beans originated, although others believe it was Southeast Asia. Some historians place the origin of long beans in Yunnan, China. Long beans are very popular in the Philippines and many East Asian countries. Long beans are currently grown in the US, particularly in the Southern United States. Long beans are also found in the West Indies and the Mediterranean.
Enjoying Long Beans
Fresh long beans have that crisp when you bite into them even if they are already cooked.
Some say long beans are oftentimes almost flavorless, thus relying on the flavors of other ingredients, while others think long beans are flavorful as well as chewy. Others describe the taste of long beans as a distinctly beany taste.
Fresh long beans will keep for a week when stored in the vegetable crisper. It is better if you store long beans unwashed because the moisture from washing will hasten the process of long beans turning bad. Place long beans inside a plastic bag before putting them in the refrigerator. Use a freezer bag if you plan to store long beans in the freezer, allowing them to last for six months.
Long beans are great when you are making stews. You can deep fry long beans or cook them with chopped meat and other seasonings. You can also steam these, stir fry, braise, or blanch them. This is preferred for the Szechuan dry fried beans recipe.
When cooking long beans, it is ideal to cut them into smaller pieces, around 1-2 inches in length. You can use a knife but you can simply snap long beans into smaller pieces. Expect long beans to have dry ends. Just remove this part and do not use it. Make sure to rinse long beans well before using them for cooking.
Your body will benefit greatly from eating long beans, which contain protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, thiamin, calcium, copper, riboflavin, iron, phosphorus, potassium, folate, magnesium, and manganese.
Long beans are a low-calorie vegetable. It contains dietary fiber. Eating long beans is good because it can help the body fight cancer, improve our body’s immunity, help in blood vessel elasticity, and improve skin complexion and night vision.