Jul 17, 2017

Ingredients: Yard-Long beans, Snake beans, Asparagus beans, Bodi, Bora, Tane Bodi, Chang Jiang Dou, Jhudunga, Choda, Chawli, Barbati, Lubiya, Payaru

This variety of cowpea is variously called yard-long beans, asparagus beans, snake beans, bodi, bora, tane bodi, chang jiang dou, jhudunga, choda, chawli, barbati, lubiya, payaru, or Chinese long beans. These quick-growing beans are a staple vegetable in much of South Asia due to their tolerance of harsh sun, heavy rains, high humidity, tropical diseases and pests. While they can be eaten raw they’re often enjoyed in tasty stir-fries, curries, and omelettes.

Yard-long beans can certainly grow up to a yard in length, but most types should be picked when they’re much shorter. Their scientific name, Vigna unguiculata subspecies sesquipedalis, actually gives the best indicator of their length. Sesquipedalis literally means a foot and a half. Many varieties are indeed best enjoyed as a vegetable when around around eighteen inches in length. 


In Nepal these beans are called tane bodi which simply means "long beans." In different regions of India they are called payaru, jhudunga, chawli, bodi, barbati, lubiya, and chora. In Central America, South America, and the Caribbean they are known as bora or bodi. In the Philippines, they are known as sitaw or butong. In China they are called chang jiang dou. In Thailand they are called tua fak yaw.

Flower of  Vigna unguiculata subspecies sesquipedalis

Yard-long beans do look a bit like overgrown green beans as they are both members of the legume family. But yard-long beans belong to different genera than green beans. They're actually close relatives of cowpeas, field peas, crowder peas, and black-eyed peas. With most types of cowpeas only the hulled peas are consumed. However, with yard-long beans it’s more common to eat the immature green pod- just like green beans. In some parts of Africa and Asia the thetender green leaves are prepared and eaten like spinach too.


The yard-long bean is a vigorous climbing annual vine growing 9 to 12 feet and requires a trellis or support. The vine prefers a light, well-drained soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.8 which has been  enriched with compost or rotted chicken manure. The plant begins to produce long pods ranging from 14 to 30 inches as soon as 60 days after sowing. The pods hang in pairs that should be picked for vegetable use before matured. Checking or harvesting yard-long beans daily is a necessity because they grow extremely quickly in warm climates. When harvesting it is important not to pick the buds which are above the bean as the plant will set more beans upon the same stem. They tolerate heat and humidity much better than common beans. Keeping the pods picked is essential to maintain production.

 Seeds or beans from Vigna unguiculata subspecies sesquipedalis

If left unpicked the yard-long bean pods will grow up to 1 meter (3 feet) in length and produce beans that look very similar to black-eyed peas. Fret not if you find yourself with several forgotten pods as these beans can be used like dry beans in soups.



You’ll find yard-long beans in light and dark shades of green most often. They do come in in red, purplish, or speckled varieties too. The lighter green yard-long beans are purported to have a sweeter, nuttier, more delicate flavor than the deeper colored varieties. The palest green ones are therefore favored for quick-cooking dishes. When cooked the red, purple, and speckled beans turn green. All yard-long beans are stringless too unlike green beans.


Yard-long beans are normally sold in bundles in markets. I've always seen them in Asian markets and wondered how to cook them. Choose thin beans free from bulging or splitting. Split or bulging pods indicate that the beans inside are too developed. Don’t be overly concerned with floppiness or wrinkles. Use your yard-long beans within two to three days as they can quickly go from floppy to limp and wilted after which they fall to pieces.

Chopped yard-long beans just dropped into hot oil for a Nepali style stir-fry

Yard-long beans become soggy and bland when boiled, blanched, or steamed. The beans are best chopped into smaller lengths and cooked quickly in oil. When sautéed, stir-fried, or deep-fried, their flavor intensifies and their texture becomes deliciously crispy. Most Asian recipes wisely use these methods to prepare yard-long beans. Please ignore crazy westerners who implore you to blanch, steam, or boil yard-long beans in their ridiculous recipes- they know not what they do. 

Chopped yard-long beans after stir-frying for about 7 minutes, shriveled, wrinkled, and tenderly crisp

As you can see in the photos above yard-long beans wrinkle or shrivel and crisp up as they fry down. I've heard yard-long beans described as being similar to green beans, asparagus, and mushrooms in flavor. To me they don't taste nor smell anything like green beans, asparagus, or mushrooms. The texture is completely different that green beans when cooked also. While cooking they give off a scent similar to peanuts and potatoes. When prepared in a traditional Nepali stir-fry or tareko their flavor and texture reminds me of hash browns or shredded pan-fried potatoes.


If you live in an area with  hot, humid, tropical Summers you might consider planting yard-long beans in your garden. They are easy to cook, easy to grow, attractive to look at, and quite nutritious being rich in vitamin C and calcium. These are one of the few vegetables that will actually continue to bear throughout the Monsoon. If not just stop by your local Asian market and buy some! I'm certainly going to try growing them in my garden and will be featuring recipes utilizing yard-long beans on this very blog!

Calmly currying on,
Bibi

12 comments:

  1. Beans are popularly called "Seem" or "Babati" in Bangla. They very good for health. But I totally detest them, which includes both the long and the smaller beans. No offence meant, it has been my experience that no matter how you cook it, there is a certain raw abrasiveness about them which irritates your throat. I think it has something to do with their texture, it is like you are eating a twig. But, I guess it is my personal opinion. You like some vegetables less than others.

    Apple

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    Replies
    1. Hi Apple,
      Beans go by soooo many names.
      When I cook beans they don't turn out twig-like? Hmmm...

      Delete
  2. I love beans... in whichever shape it is! These yard long ones are really easy to chop and cook to... I am so tempted to buy a big bunch, chop them and cook them up all for myself! :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Rafeeda,
      Me too! Beans always remind me of Summer!
      ;)

      Delete
  3. I know them as long bean. In Burma they're blanched, chilled, and then dressed with fish sauce and lime juice and topped with either chopped roasted peanuts or fried onions. It's a really good salad. I get my long beans from the local Thai supermarket.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Mim,
      Maybe it has to do with the variety of long beans (there are several with different attributes) but when I tried steaming & blanching the Nepali long beans they just turned into waterlogged nothingness.
      Peanuts+ onions+ lime & other Thai style accoutrements would be yummy with these!

      Delete
  4. They're called "Yard Long Beans" in Nebraska, and they've made their way to supermarkets. I've only sauteed them in oil without blanching. I can't grow beans in my garden (the pests are too aggressive and I don't like to use pesticide)but they're cheap and easily available.

    I'm going to try Mim's salad suggestion-that sounds great.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Goody,
      Hmmm...I know these beans can get mites but that's about all I've seen eating them here. They are cheap though.
      I made a Malaysian style omelet with them today that was yummy!

      Delete
  5. I've seen them sold in bundles on Indian markets but I'm not sure if I've eaten them, I always assume the red beans I get in curries in South India are kidney beans. xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Vix,
      The only way I've seen yard-long beans served at restaurants in Nepal & India is at roadside restaurants & dhabas in what Nepalis call"mis-mas." It's usually all sorts of veg & a few potatoes in a spicy yellow sauce.

      Delete
  6. My long bean plants are thriving in a tree-pot topped with two tomato towers. They love Indiana's heat and humidity, apparently. Me, I love chomping on them raw when they're short (along with my pet cherry tomatoes). Do like the idea of adding some peanuts to my nibbles bowl! I'm making an effort to substitute nuts, seeds and legumes for meat in my menus.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Beth,
      Wow! Sounds like they do great where you're at! I'm going to try to grow some in September. I've had them raw in salads at my Thai gf's house & they were yummy. I know my Kashmiri clan would be horrified if I served them raw beans though.

      Delete

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