- 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 (https://www.hawaiiseedgrowersnetwork.com/) 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 www.hawaiiseedgrowersnetwork.com
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