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Long Beans: Kitchen Basics

Long beans
Long beans

Long beans can be eaten raw or cooked. Sliced long beans can be added raw to salads similar to French haricots verts. Long beans can be steamed or sautéed as a side dish. They can be added to soups and stews.

Long beans have a chewy, crunchy texture–more so than snap beans–and a flavor reminiscent of the dry navy bean or asparagus.

Long beans are also called asparagus bean, yard long bean, Chinese pea, snake bean, dau gok, and bodi or boonchi.

Long beans are warm-season plants harvested from mid to late summer. Long beans will be damaged by frost.

Long beans in kitchen
Long beans are dense and meaty

How to Select Long Beans

  • Long beans are most flavorful thin and about 18 inches long. (Long beans referred to as yard-long beans will never reach a yard long.)
  • Seeds inside a long bean should not be fully developed; avoid beans that are bulging.
  • Long beans are dense and meaty; they are not crisp or juicy like green beans, and they are not a substitute for green beans).
  • Avoid mature long beans that are yellow or whitish colored.
  • Avoid long beans that are limp.
  • There are both pale green and dark green long beans. A paler bean will be sweeter tasting and meatier than dark green long beans. Pale green long beans will be more tender than the dark green long beans. Dark green long beans will be stronger flavored and more firm than pale green long beans.
  • Mature long beans can be harvested for their seeds which can be dried and stored like other dry beans.
  • Beans that have grown too old will turn limp and rusty colored.
  • Long beans do not contain as much moisture as bush or pole beans (the long bean is not a close relative of the common bean), that’s what makes them more flexible and snake-like and drier to taste.

How to Store Long Beans

  • Long beans will keep in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days in a closed plastic bag.
  • Wrap long beans in a paper towel and placed them in a plastic bag.
Slice long beans into bite-size pieces
Slice long beans into bite-size pieces

How to Prep Long Beans

  • Trim away both ends then slice the bean into desired lengths on the diagonal or straight across.
  • Slice long beans into 1 to 2-inch bite-sized pieces for stir-frying.
  • Long beans are best trimmed before cooking.

Long Bean Cooking Suggestions

  • Long beans can be stir-fried, stewed, braised, sautéed, shallow-fried, and deep-fried.
  • Long bean flavor intensifies with cooking. Stir-fry long beans until just tender crunchy.
  • Steam long beans until just tender about 3 to 7 minutes.
  • Braise long beans for 20 minutes with other vegetables and meats, best in a garlicky or oniony braising liquid. Dark green long beans are best suited for braising.
  • The taste of yard-long beans intensifies with cooking; they become nutty, chewy and firm.

Long Bean Serving Suggestions

  • Long beans can be served raw in salads.
  • Serve long beans with vegetable or meat stews, fried rice, black beans, sausage, roast pork, curry or chili sauce.
  • Add long beans to soups or stir-fried dishes.
  • Long beans are often used in Szechwan-style Chinese cooking. The Szechwan dish called dry-fried beans is the long bean deep-fried, drained, and then stir-fried with a spicy seasoning. That dish takes about 5 minutes to cook.

Long Bean Flavor Partners

  • Long beans have a flavor affinity for pork, ginger, nuts, fermented black beans, garlic, strong herbs, soy and fish sauce, chili peppers, sausages, oil, and vinegar.

Long Bean Nutrition

  • Long beans are rich in vitamin A and also contain vitamin C and potassium.
  • Long beans are low in calories, about 45 calories per cup.
Long beans on the vine
Long bean cowpea (Vigna unguiculata)

Get to Know Long Beans

  • Long beans are climbing plants that reach 6 to 13 feet long.
  • The pods can be straight or hooked. Each pod contains 15 to 20 elongated kidney-shaped seeds usually black or brown between and each about ½ to ¾ inches long.
  • Long beans are ready for harvest at 8 to 10 inches long but can be picked much longer, at 1½ to 3 feet long.
  • Long beans originated in tropical and sub-tropical Africa before traveling east to India, Indonesia, and China and then on to the Pacific Islands. From Africa, the long bean traveled west to the Caribbean and North America.
  • Long beans are commonly grown in California and Hawaii.
  • Long beans are also called Chinese long beans and asparagus beans.

The botanical name for the yard-long bean is Vigna unguiculata, subsp. sesquipedalis. (Sesquipedalis means foot and a half long in Latin.)

Also of interest:

How to Grow Beans

How to Harvest and Store Beans

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15 Comments

  1. Thanks for the info. This is the 2nd time I have grown asparagus beans. I am not too crazy about them so far. But now that I now when to pick them and what to do them, perhaps I will like them better.

  2. This is my second year to grow the yard-long beans. I sent some seeds to a cousin I made a trellis out of a small metal greenhouse by putting a closely spaced plastic fencing over it. it is so fun to walk into my greenhouse and have beans hanging down to pick. They are growing over the center and now are even coming the other side.. I can believe the 13 foot length to the vines

  3. Thanks for the information. Indeed the lighter, fatter, softer beans are sweet when cooked. The ginger and garlic also add to the flavor of the beans. And the cooking time was right.
    I look forward to going through your blog.

  4. I live in south Louisiana so we cook quite differently. I boiled some in water with a good amount of butter,some fresh cracked pepper, salt, and a little garlic powder. Very tasty

  5. How do I preserve these beans. I canned them like other green beans and they are entirely mushy. Terrible. I do not like regular green beans frozen. Can You assist. I have bushels I do not want to see go to waste

    • Blanch the long beans (to preserve their color) then freeze them. Spread the beans on a baking sheet in a single layer, and flash freeze them for 30-60 minutes. Remove the frozen beans from the tray, place them in a freezer baggie, label, and place back into the freezer. When you’re ready to eat them, boil until tender and season.

  6. Hello Steve, I m writing from Victoria Australia.

    Thank you for sharing so much information on the growing of various types of vegetables

    I m a novice when it comes to gardening n find your website very useful

    I wish to grow snake beans or yard beans in pots, can you please advise me on the size of pots to use

    Thank you once again for your selfless ness in sharing your knowledge

    Warmest regards

    • Each plant would grow best in a container at least 20 liters/5 gallons. The container should have drainage holes; and you should set it up on small blocks to be sure water can drain through. All of the nutrients the plant must have will be in that soil; so a smaller container is not advised. Feed your plant a dilute solution of fish emulsion or kelp meal every 10 days.

  7. I love beans! I routinely grow scarlet runners and a standard green pole bean that has white flowers. I do not know the specific variety of them because I got the seed from gardening friends when I lived in Seattle and save seed every year for the connection to friends far away. This year I added chinese long bean. They are the pale green variety, brown seeded, with a pale lavender flower. A coworker gave me seed. I planted some and gave some away. I have never eaten them, but am excited to try. I have never grown beans in pots, but guess that a 5 gallon pot would be the minimum, and you would have to have the pot near some sort of trellis for the beans to grow up on.

    • Yes, pole beans in a pot will benefit from a trellis to climb. Bush beans grow well in containers. Thanks for your note on seed saving. Such a great way to keep the past connections growing.

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