Grow Yardlong Beans

Unique and edible bean pods!


The countdown to growing season needn’t be so long! Get an early start planning to include one of the tastiest, most amusing vegetables to grow in your home garden—the yardlong bean. Also called the asparagus bean, long podded cowpea, Chinese long bean, or snake bean, its scientific name is Vigna unguiculata subsp. sesquipedalis. It’s enchanting, unusual, and a great conversation piece with delicious edible pods that grow to 1.5-feet long.

Long pods need a long vine. This vigorous climber can reach up to 12-feet tall, so you’ll want to set up a 5-to7-foot trellis or even better, a teepee; you can enjoy your favorite gardening newsletter as you lounge under the shade of your cool bean teepee.

The plants thrive in full sun and in hot, humid summers. Pods begin to form 60 days after direct sowing into the soil after the danger of frost has passed. I usually sow them in-between my sugar snap peas, so the yardlong beans can take over the trellis when the snap peas are finished producing. Yardlong beans will continually produce beans until the first frost.

Experience has taught me that yardlong beans have fewer pest problems than green bean plants and are easier to cook and eat. They grow and taste similar to traditional string beans but without the string.

The yardlong bean is a true legume. It enriches the soil by fixing atmospheric nitrogen in nodules on its roots; it makes its own food with the help of nitrogen-fixing bacteria.

The plant has bright green compound leaves with three heart-shaped leaflets, with the pods usually formed in joined pairs. The flowers look like other legumes with five petals—the largest petal on top. The flowers’ color ranges from white, pink, and lavender depending on the variety of yardlong bean. The plant can also be used as an ornamental to add interest to any green space. Small mammals, deer, and birds may eat young plants, but I have not had that issue.

Just harvest the immature pod when it’s between 10-12 inches long, or save the mature seeds to cook like dry beans. The ideal yardlong bean is emerald green and ¼-inch wide. Pods develop quickly, so make sure to harvest daily. The young stems and leaves can also be steamed and eaten.

Enjoy the immature pods raw or cooked. Raw pods store well in the crisper of the fridge for up to five days. I regularly boil the immature beans and serve them with butter or add them to stir-fry. Yardlong beans are a good source of protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, thiamine, riboflavin, iron, phosphorus, potassium, folate, magnesium, and manganese.

Yardlong beans attract many pollinators, especially wasps and ants. At first, I was nervous to harvest while the vines were covered in wasps, but in over 10 years of growing these beans, I’ve never suffered a sting. Warning: If you are frightened or allergic to wasps and bees, the yardlong bean might not be the safest to grow. Aphids, mites, and thrips are the most common pests, but they have not caused problems with my crop.

The yardlong bean is a fun and enticing plant to grow. I fell in love with them the first summer I grew them. The flowers are gorgeous (see example here) and food for our pollinator friends. I prefer the taste and texture of yardlong beans over traditional green beans. Impress your family, friends, and neighbors this summer with this winning plant.

Source: USDA Plant Guide Yardlong Bean