Friday, May 14, 2010

When Beans Fly

"Wing Bean" i say to my Filipina girlfriends, prompting gales of laughter. "Pa-long" they correct me.  We are talking about the same vegetable, of course. Goa Bean, Frilled bean, Asparagus Pea, Princess Bean, Four Winged Bean, Psophocarpus tetragonolobus if you want to get Latin about it, all different names for the same trendy little bean that has been growing in Hawaiian gardens for years.

Considering it's popularity in the garden, wing bean seeds are conspicuously absent on local seeds racks. If you want to grow them you'll have to make friends with a gardening auntie or  uncle. 'Hunan' is a day length neutral variety that can be mail ordered from Echo and Baker's Creek but it doesn't seem to be well adapted to island gardens, at least not mine. These seeds are from a locally grown variety saved from last year's plants.

In Hawaii Wing Bean is a carefree crop that requires little more than a sunny, wind sheltered spot, ample watering, and a sturdy trellis to climb.  Nick the seed and soak in water overnight to help speed germination.  My seeds were sown in January, the vines have been flowering since March but are just setting beans now. In his book 'Growing Vegetables in Fiji', Kirk Dahlgren claims that vines can grow and produce for up to four years.

The immature green pod is the part most commonly eaten although the flowers, leaves, dry seeds and roots are all edible, sparking the 'supermarket bean' description. Here are some tubers from last year's crop.

The nutritional powerhouses have about the same protein content as soybeans.  The large blue flowers have a sweet, mushroomy flavor and make a fine addition to green salads.

Wing beans do not have a long shelf life and turn brown if refrigerated so the best place to find them for sale is at a local farmers market. They also make an apperance in the produce section of Long's Drugs from time to time. Bean pods can be thinly sliced on the diagonal and added to stir frys or salads. Here is one of our favorite ways to enjoy the harvest. 


A Kitchen Garden in Kihei Maui said...

Wow the blue flowers are beautiful - I can't wait to grow the wing beans! Your blog looks great!!

Julie said...

Jane see the seeds in that picture? They are yours! i am on my way to post them now.
You might want to check back when your beans start to bear, i will be adding a link to some wing bean recipes soon.

Bangchik said...

Of many type of beans, I think winged beans has the biggest seeds. Nice to eat fresh or fried. ~bangchik

Julie said...

Last year i did not grow enough plants to try the seeds. i am looking forward to trying them this year. Maybe you will make a post about when to pick and how to prepare the seeds bangchik!