On long beans

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.

_DSC6332Pretty 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!

4 responses to “On long beans

  1. There is a kind of bean I know as “choli” – I’m trying to figure out if it is the same as the long-bean or asparagus bean. They are really very very long (often as long as my arm, but as you said, they are harvested when about a foot long), and green. Inside the pea/bean looks almost like a black-eyed pea, but not quite. What do you think? Might it be the same plant? I love choli, they taste nothing at all like other kinds of beans.

    • MC, yes, I think it’s the same plant. They’re from that corner of the world, so… If you have a sunny spot where you can put a trellis, they’re fun to have. They take a while to get going though.

  2. Our beans have done fair this year, certainly not great…perhaps it has been too hot. The green and red yard long beans we are growing have just now reached the top of our trellis, the chance of even one of them developing is about zero so I am grateful to at least be able to behold yours in all their beanie glory.

    Luckily our steadfast standby, the fava bean, has done it’s duty as usual and will be able to compensate for other beans shortcomings.

  3. Mike, yeah, I had a too-hot year a few years back and the pole beans then exploded at the end of August. Not a bad thing, you know! SO: you expect your first frost soon-ish then? I have about a month yet. It’s a good thing because there are still quite a few beans out there! Hopefully you’ll get a harvest of your own long beans.

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