Longtime readers know I adore beans. In point of fact, I have never met a bean I didn’t like, though I suppose there are a few varieties I like only a little bit. But as they’re ripening fast and furious on their vines, I thought I would mention one beloved bean in particular.
Pretty long, eh?
Vigna unguiculata (sesquipedalis) is a bean in the cowpea (black-eyed pea) family. Also known as yard-long beans, asparagus beans, or snake beans, “yard” is a bit of an exaggeration: the fully-grown pods reach only about 18-20″ (thus, sesquipedalis, foot-and-a-half). They’re not particularly edible at that length though. Instead, you should harvest them when they’re shy of a foot long. I cook and eat them like regular green beans. This particular variety, the red-seeded asparagus bean, is this lovely maroon color, which darkens when cooked. They don’t taste like green beans, either, but have their own taste, somewhat nutty, and a bit more crunchy.
I grow cowpeas too and their pods are nothing at all like these. Their flowers, quite beautiful twinned orchid-like blossoms, are similar to the lowly cowpea.
They’re heat-loving, clambering vines, befitting their Southeast Asian origins. It takes them a while to get going here in my non-tropical garden, but once they do, it’s time to get picking. And eating!