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The Incredible Edible Bean

This year is my second trying to grow Winged bean.  Last year I nearly had two very small bean pods.  There just wasn’t enough time for the beans to grow and reach their full potential.  I started the seeds earlier this year with semi-success, not to the level I had hoped to reach.

Winged bean (Psophocarpus tetragonolobus) is a type of bean where nearly every part of the plant can be eaten, not just the bean pods.  The flowers and young leaves can be stir-fried together with young bean pods, for instance.  The pod is better picked young because the shell gets very hard and fibrous if the seeds are allowed to fully develop.  The young beans can be eaten fresh in salads, stir-fried with egg or blanched and eaten with a dip as you would with carrots or celery.  Its tuberous roots can be eaten grilled or steamed.  The finely cut, dried and roasted roots are also used as a tea to give your health a boost.

I can’t vouch for using dried beans though (see link above) since I have never used them that way.  I only know the more common methods for using the beans as noted above.  It’s harder to get mature roots where I’m living since the summer is too short for the plant to grow fully.  In the tropics, this bean will grow year round and the roots can grow to thumb size.

As unhelpful as the weather is this year, the beans have been producing a considerable number of pods and plenty of flowers.  One of the problems with growing this bean in a cold climate (Northeastern US), even in summer, is the flowers will drop if it’s not hot enough.   So I ended up eating the flowers more often than the bean, nothing was wasted.

Though the bean hasn’t performed as well as the Asian long bean, I’ll grow it again next year from seeds I’ve collected.  I hope the seeds from this year’s plants will somehow adapt to this climate a little though it may take a few generations.   If not, I still have the leaves and flowers for my cooking.

Spear shaped leaves, thinner and longer than other types of beans

Spear shaped leaves, thinner and longer than other types of beans

Beautiful lavender colored flowers are edible

Beautiful lavender colored flowers are edible

Young bean pod with ridges on both sides that look like wings

Young bean pod with ridges on both sides that look like wings

Plenty of flowers and leaves atop the trellis

Plenty of flowers and leaves atop the trellis

Winged beans in the foreground, Asian long beans in the background, with Lemongrass tucked in the middle

Winged beans in the foreground, Asian long beans in the background, with Lemongrass tucked in the middle

One of the pods I kept for seeds

One of the pods I kept for seeds