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  • Nancy Redfeather

The Spring Equinox and a Short History of the Long Bean,our newest addition to the HSGN Marketplace

By Nancy Redfeather

Seed Blog: March 2020 #2

Amid the worries of the world, the first day of Spring is coming this week and bringing with her the promise of renewal and regeneration. The Spring Equinox will occur in Hawai’i on Thursday March 19 at 5:49 p.m. about an hour before sunset. It is one of two times per year that the Earth experiences a perfect balance of light and dark in both hemispheres.

The coming of Spring reminds us that it’s time to think about planting a small kitchen garden and also planning seed varieties to grow this year. As the years unfold, the desire for such a garden to supplement our family food needs seems to get stronger and stronger as the realities of eating fresh and nutritious foods and their contribution to building our health and strength mounts.

The newest addition to the Hawai’i Seed Growers Marketplace ( is one you may not be totally familiar with so a short history of the Long Bean is in order.

The Mottled Taiwan Long Bean (vigna unguiculata ssp. sesquipedalis) is a legume that most likely originated in Africa and then migrated to Asia or vice versa as there is still controversy over this. The long bean has many names such as yard-long bean, Chinese long bean, snake bean, long podded cowpea, bodi bean and others! This Taiwan Long bean variety was brought from Taiwan to Hawai’i and grown out for Hawaii’s gardeners and chefs by Hawai’i Seed Network Grower Jay Bost of Go Farm-Hawai’i in Waimanalo. (see end of blog for a link to this program) The entire vigna family is known for it’s vigor in semi-tropical gardens, but this one is also beautiful!

Unlike most long beans which are either pale or dark green or red, the Taiwan Long Bean is light green/cream colored with red/purple mottling. The beans are not as long as some long bean varieties and are “meatier” as well. The pods, can begin to form in just 60 days after sowing, and tend to hang in groups of two or more. They are usually eaten as a fresh young green bean, but they could be matured on the vine, shelled and used as a dry bean.

Growing Tips: Sow seeds about an inch deep and 6 inches apart on a sturdy trellis. These vigorous vines can grow 8-12 feet long. This nitrogen fixing legume needs full sun to grow its best and while somewhat drought tolerant, don’t let it go too dry especially when it is young. Seeds can be found at

Culinary History, Uses, and Recipes

The long bean is “traditionally” used in a variety of dishes especially in Southeast Asia and Southern China. Many Filipino dishes call for long beans such as utan, pinakbet, dinengdena, sinigang, and kare-kare. These recipes are made with meat or fish and vegetables often combined in a soup base. In African countries the long bean is commonly grown, and in the Caribbean, it is known as Bora and grown in most home gardens and easily found in markets.

Common Uses Of Bora

  • The sliced bora are added to soups.

  • They could be stewed, braised, sautéed, shallow fried and deep fried.

  • The tender pods are eaten cooked or fresh.

  • It is used as stir-fried with potatoes and shrimp

  • It is also chopped into short sections, sautéed, and put into an omelet.

  • Raw bora beans are also consumed as salads with various dressings

There are lots of interesting recipes from many countries and I include a few of the tasty and simple ones to get you started with your first crop of Taiwan Long Beans! In the first recipe the beans are steamed first and then tossed with the spicy sauce. In the second recipe they are stir-fried with spices! The third recipe comes from Ethiopia and has a real Hawaiian flavor.


Spicy Taiwan Long Beans


1 lb. Mottled Taiwan long beans

For Spicy Dressing:

  • 3 tbsp. Soy sauce or Braggs

  • 2 – 3 tbsp. hot chili oil (add less or more if you like it spicy)

  • 1 tsp. sweetener such as honey or maple syrup

  • 1/2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

  • 1 tsp. salt Ground black pepper to taste

  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic ½ tsp. sesame seeds

  • 1 tbsp. each chopped scallion or green onion tops and chopped cilantro


1. Rinse the long beans and remove both ends. Cut the beans into 2-3 inch long segments. In boiling water, add 1 tbsp. of salt or put in the steamer.

2. Boil or steam the long beans until just cooked. About 5 minutes. Drain the water and cool to room temperature. Do not overcook as the beans will become soggy.

3. To make the spicy dressing, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir to mix. This can be done in advance.

4. Toss the cooked beans with the spicy dressing. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Serve hot or cold with rice, or with a locally caught fish, chicken, or pork.


Sichuan Style Stir-fried Taiwan Long Beans


  • 1/2 -1 pound Taiwan Long Beans trimmed and cut into 3 in. sections

  • 1 tablespoon oil (coconut, peanut, or olive)

  • 4-6 dried chilies OR red chili flakes to taste

  • ½ tsp. cracked black peppercorns

  • 1/4 tsp. salt

  • 1/2 tsp. sweetener such as honey, maple syrup, or coconut sugar

  • 3 tsps. sesame oil

  • Splash of soy sauce, Braggs, or Coco-Aminos


1. Add a tablespoon of oil to a wok or a large sauté pan over medium heat and swirl until hot. Add chilies or red pepper chili flakes and stir-fry briefly until fragrant.

2. Add the long beans and stir-fry vigorously for 3-4 minutes (you don't want the spices to burn, if they start to burn, turn down the heat a bit). Season with salt and sugar and stir-fry a few seconds more to mix it all together.

3. Remove from heat. Stir in the sesame oil and soy sauce. Serve immediately with your favorite grain, protein, and a green salad.


Fossolia : Ethiopian Style Long Beans – a traditional dish


• 1 pound Taiwan Long Beans washed, trimmed, and chopped into 3 in. pieces

• 1 medium tomato sliced

• 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

• 1 cup sliced yellow onion

• ⅓ cup minced fresh ginger

• 2 ½ tablespoons minced fresh garlic

• 2 tablespoons water, plus more as needed

• 1 sprig fresh rosemary

• 1 teaspoon makulaya alicha spice blend (see Tip below) OR equal parts dried basil and thyme

• ½ teaspoon sea salt and ¼ teaspoon ground cumin


1. Lightly steam cut long beans until they just begin to be tender. Remove from steamer

and pat dry with a paper towel.

2. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add tomato and cook, turning

frequently, until blackened in several spots, 8 to 10 minutes. When cool enough to

handle puree in a food processor or blender until smooth.

3. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Add the long beans and cook, stirring, until browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

4. Reduce heat to medium. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, onion, ginger and garlic and cook, stirring often, until starting to soften, 2 to 3 minutes.

5. Add water and cook, stirring and adding another tablespoon of water as needed to prevent sticking, until the onion is tender, 4 to 5 minutes.

6. Return the long beans to the pan along with the tomato puree, rosemary, makulaya (or basil and thyme), salt and cumin. Cook, stirring often, until the green beans are tender, 3 to 4 minutes.

Tip: The makulaya alica spice is a blend of ground turmeric, garlic, ginger, and white cumin.

More about the Go Farm-Hawai’i Program at Waimanalo can be found in this Think Tech Hawai’i Interview with Jay Bost! and at the program website

A profile of Seed Grower Jay Bost can be found at:

Wishing you all a joyous Spring Growing Season and delicious fun with the Taiwan Long Bean Recipes! Bon Appetite!

Local Seeds For Local Needs

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