This week, the plan is to till and turn the soil in the garden in preparation of giving our fall seedlings a place to grow, flourish, and produce tasty vegetables for the entire fall season. It is busy, hands-on work; yet, it is very relaxing and satisfying work to me. Before the excitement of the anticipated autumn bounty gets out of control, I pay homage to the workhorse of my summer garden – the Long Bean.
Long Beans – sometimes called the Asparagus Beans, Chinese Long Bean, and Yard Long Beans – are the most rewarding and productive vegetable I have ever planted…Ever. When I planted four seeds last spring, I anticipated that I would get one plant and that it would produce a goodly amount of beans to throw into a few stir-fries along with other vegetables. Instead, all four quickly sprouted and, after I set them into the garden, they took off like nothing I had ever planted. The plants begin to grow and vine at the speed of a cartoon animation. We set up two three-foot trellises to give it a place to climb. Within days, the plants climbed the trellises and they began zigzagging from one trellis to the other entwining itself onto itself; all the while producing bright green leaves. This vigorous activity completely over shadowed the wax beans and Blue Lake green beans I had planted. These vegetables were no match to the work ethic of the long beans.
A month after setting the long beans into the garden, I decided to cut back the plants because, as they were producing leaves and vines, there was no vegetable production. A week later, the plants were covered in the most delicate white, purple, and lavender flowers.
Three days later, the flowers shriveled, died, and left behind a tiny green sprout about the width of the fingernail on my pinky finger. In just three days, the long bean sprout was now the length of a chopstick and, two days later, the plants draped with long beans. No sooner than I picked the first lot, yielding about 39 beans, the plants produced another set of flowers and more sprouts appeared. And so it was the entire summer, each week, there was a new harvest of long beans to cook.
I would comb the vines each day looking for new long beans; their quick growth required daily picking and gathering. The subtropical/tropical climate in south Florida is an idea-growing environment for the long beans that grow in warm (read HOT) climates of Southeast Asia, Thailand, and Africa, where is a traditional food plant in all countries.
A closer relative to the black-eye pea and cowpea than a green bean, long beans look like a super long green beans and are crispy, chewy, and tender when cooked. I harvest long beans while they are still immature, when they are about 16” long, for the best flavor and texture. Too long on the vine, long beans will become longer and plumper but also tougher, woodier, and inedible. Oriental markets usually have long beans their produce area and you can eat them raw or cooked; pickled, in stir-fries or in soups; and even in omelets. I once ate them in a restaurant, which cost my Mom $27 that she never lets me forget. After growing them, I have no idea why they should cost so much. I spent $1.29 on one packet of seeds and only four of the seeds fed us all summer.
My Recipe: THAI YELLOW CURRY LONG BEANS & PORK serves 4 – 6
1 – 2 lbs of fresh long beans, washed, trimmed, and cut into 2” pieces
½ lb ground pork or fine minced roast pork
1 t finely minced ginger
1 – 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 – 2 T Thai yellow curry paste (Mae Ploy is my preferred brand)
2 t sugar
1 c coconut milk
2 T soy sauce
1 t fish sauce (Tiparos is my preferred brand)
3 T peanut, canola, or vegetable oil; not olive oil
1 Thai bird chili, optional
4 – 6 T roasted chopped peanuts, optional
2 – 3 scallions, finely minced
1 – 6 c steamed long grain brown rice
Combine yellow curry paste, sugar, coconut milk, and soy sauce until thoroughly combined and smooth; drop in Thai bird chili, if using; set aside
Stir-frying is a quick process. Make sure to have everything prepped and ready to go before you drop the first ingredient into the pan.
Heat a wok or large sauté pan with curved sides over high heat; add 1 T of oil; add garlic and ginger and fry for a minute stirring constantly to avoid burning the garlic
Add minced raw or cooked pork and stir fry for another two minutes or until the raw pork is cooked through; remove pork from the pan and set aside
Return work to high heat and add remaining tablespoons of oil; add long beans and stir-fry long beans until they begin to shrivel about 5 – 7 minutes; remove beans from pan and set aside
Add Thai yellow curry paste – coconut milk mixture to the pan; bring to a boil and allow the mixture to reduce by half; return the pork and the long beans back to the pan; add finely minced green onions and cook for another minute; remove from heat
Remove Thai bird chili; serve over steamed brown rice, garnished with chopped roasted peanuts
My Recipe: HOT-PICKLED MUSTARD LONG BEANS serves 4 – 6
1 – 2 lbs fresh long beans, washed, trimmed, and cut into 2” pieces
2 T vegetable oil
4 T apple cider vinegar
2 T Dijon mustard
1 T whole grain mustard
1 – 2 t sugar
1 medium red onion, sliced very thin
1 T kosher salt, plus additional salt for blanching long beans
1 t cracked black pepper
Water, for boiling
Bring large pot of water to a boil; add salt; add long beans; boil for a minute; drain; and rinse under cold water
Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat; add vegetable oil and red onion; sauté until onions begin to soften, about 2 minutes
Add apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, whole grain mustard, and sugar; bring to a boil
Add blanched long beans and cook for a minute; season with kosher salt and cracked black pepper; remove from heat
Serve with simply grilled or broiled steaks, pork chops, or chicken
The faithful production of the long beans makes it somewhat bittersweet for me to remove the plants from my garden; but they have reached the end of their growing cycle. The vine and leaf production has slowed down considerably and those delicate flowers heralding in new long beans are fewer and fewer each morning. The long beans are growing slower as well. I am letting a few of the beans go as long as they can on the vine, getting thicker and dried out on the outside while the bean inside becomes very plump. I will shell these beans, allow them to naturally dry out, and use them for next year.
Next year, we plan to put the plants at the base of our larger garden trellis that is over six feet tall. The vines will undoubtedly cover the entire trellis, covering it in pretty flowers, and long beans will hang over our heads before filling our stomachs.
always in good T.A.S.T.E – cause you gottatastethis!