The Amazing Long Bean

oriental vegetable, long bean, snap bean, cowpea, gardening, self sufficiency

I’ve found a great hot weather vegetable for our garden. It goes by various names: yard long bean, long bean or sometimes even noodle bean. The scientific name for this crop is Vigna unguiculata. It’s a subspecies of cowpea (think black eyed pea). The difference between long beans and other types of cowpeas is that the long beans have really L O N G pods. The variety I raise (Georgia Long) has two foot long pods. I’ve heard of varieties with pods up to three feet long.

Here in Oklahoma summers can get so hot that most green beans simply die, or take a mid-summer nap, until cooler weather arrives. During this midsummer heat wave one might get tired of okra, which is one of the few crops which adores such heat.

Long beans are very heat resistant. They love it hot.

Long beans are very heat resistant. In fact, I have to save seed from mine before the really cool nights of fall come along. Once nights are cool enough for one to wear a jacket, they may continue flowering and even producing some pods, but the seeds simply won’t develop. However during the dog days of summer, when most other kinds of green beans wimp out, the long bean is at its “happiest.” In fact, its one of those crops I have dubbed a “feel good crop,” because it makes me feel good, even when other parts of the garden may be struggling.

Long beans are pest resistant. I’ve seen grasshoppers and Japanese beetles attack them, but I rarely have to worry about pests. This bean is so vigorous that it pretty much outgrows the damage. All cowpeas do attract ants and wasps. This is because they produce some nectar from certain nodes on the vine. Ants stake them out as their own territory, harvesting this nectar. They’re not really a problem, other than, when I pick pods, I generally give each pod a quick, back handed swat, before picking it, just to be sure I knock the ants off. The ants aren’t hurting anything and they rarely bother me. I just don’t want to collect ants while picking dinner! The fact that wasps enjoy the same nectar is actually a good thing. Wasps eat a lot of garden pests, and, the majority of wasps encountered in my garden are not aggressive.

long beans, ants, gardening, homesteading, self sufficiency
Ants are attracted to the nodes where long beans form, but they are harmless, if not beneficial.

Long beans are low maintenance. Most varieties do need a trellis. I almost always put up a 16-20’ cattle panel trellis for our long beans. I plant the seed once nights are warm. They require a little weeding until they get going. But once they take off, they are pretty trouble free. Though heat resistant, they do appreciate adequate moisture. So, I water them when they get real dry.

Long beans are easy to pick. It only takes half a dozen pods to make a healthy serving of “green beans. I don’t even have to carry a bucket to the garden, when I pick these. One fist full of pods is enough for a meal.

long bean, green beans, gardening, self sufficiency
Georgia Long

They’re easy to prepare. Instead of snapping pods, I lay them on a cutting board and cut them into short lengths. This is much quicker than snapping. I actually hold the entire fist full of pods together and cut off short pieces of every pod with each stroke of the knife. There is one important difference between preparing long beans and regular snap beans. Long beans have a much better texture if sautéed rather than boiled. When I boil the pods, they are “okay.” When I saute them in a bit of olive oil, they are outstanding. We generally serve long beans, alone, as a side dish, or add them as an ingredient in a stir fry.

long beans, sauteed beans, sauteed long beans, yard long bean
Sauteed long beans

Do you like green beans? Do you have warm summers? The long bean might be just the ticket for your mid summer vegetable needs.

Baker Creek Seeds Offers a Number of Varieties of Long Bean.

Shumway Seeds Offers what is probably the same as Georgia Long.

Some creative ideas for growing long beans

  • Let children, new to gardening, grow them. The ease of culture and large, easy to pick harvest will get them hooked on gardening!
  • Using poles for a trellis, make a kids’ “bean tepee” with long beans. They’ll cover the poles, making a great fort for kids. They’ll be able to pick beans for supper, while hiding in their fort!
  • Grow long beans on a trellis on your porch. The flowers are attractive and it’ll be convenient when you want snap beans for supper!


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