Have I got a paisley plant for you and she’s a beauty! How would you like a plant that you could eat every single part of? A plant low in calories, high in protein and high in flavor? Look no further!
The Asian Winged Bean has arrived!
Grown much in the way as a pole bean, the carefree vine loads on the beans beginning in September and will continue to be generous right up until your first frost. As I mentioned before, every part of this plant is edible. Not only edible, but delicious. The tuber has a nutty flavor and has up to 20 grams of protein, far more than a potato or even a sweet potato.
The leaves can be eaten fresh, or cooked like spinach. Unlike spinach, they are readily available in even your hottest weeks. The flowers are a beautiful lavender and have the taste and texture of a good mushroom, lovely in salads. And finally the pods, a mixture of a snow pea and asparagus flavor, can be eaten raw, cooked, or they can be dried and cooked like any other dried beans.
Germination can be slow going if you don’t do a little preparation. It’s best to nick the hard outer seedcoat with a nail file or X-acto knife carefully, or use a little sandpaper on the area furthest from the seed eye. Then soak the seeds in tepid water for one to two days. The seeds should swell from the absorption of water. If a seed does not swell, try nicking it again and soak for one more day. If it doesn’t swell after that, consider it a dud.
Using the “nick and swell” method, I have gotten a good 90% germination rate. This compared to 20-30% germination without the nicking and the swelling, is a huge improvement. This makes it well worth the extra measures on the front end of a bean production.
Winged beans can be grown in the very same way you grow any other pole beans. They have spreading vines that can reach 10 to 12 feet in length. Prune them once when they get their 12th set of leaves. This will cause them to shoot off six side shoots, making your harvest six times better. Like I said before, you can eat the leaves fresh in salads, or cooked like spinach.
After this, just let them hang out and do their thing. In July you’ll start getting a proliferation of gorgeous
lavender flowers for your salads, be sure to leave some because they’ll turn into an explosion of pods in August. Pods can grow up to nine inches long, but can be kind of rubbery at long lengths. They are best if picked at about six to seven inches, at which time they are tender, sweet, and delicious.
Nutritional Power Explosion!
I love this plant so much I actually grow two separate sections of it. One for the pods, that I start in April and will have until first frost, late October. And another that I plant with a succession schedule that I use to harvest the rest of the plant parts. In other words, some plants I grow exactly as I grow my other pole beans and some plants I harvest along the way, the shoots, the tubers, the leaves and the flowers, and the seeds.
The seeds and tubers have been getting a lot of publicity because of their high protein content. They are emerging as a hopeful crop to ease the starvation in developing countries because of their ease of care and nutritional bounty. They are pest and disease resistant, with very few growing issues, and like other legumes, they fix nitrogen in the soil, which will help revitalized otherwise depleted regions.
Kids Love Them!
If you haven’t already opened another tab to find where you can get your seeds with all the build up to now, you will, when you realize…kids love these!
Just wait till you see the look on their faces when they run in from the backyard yelling, “What’s for dinner?” and you answer, “Dragon’s Eggs and Winged Beans!” They’ll be putting down the remote and begging to help you prepare the feast! Okay, that might be a stretch, but they really will love these, and they’ll love to be able to tell their friends, “Oh, you had pizza? Well we had Dragons Eggs and Winged Beans”. They’ll love them even more if you let your kids grow their own beans and cucumbers.(Dragon’s eggs are round, white cucumbers by the way, but that’s another post) It doesn’t matter how healthy something is if you can’t get it down their gullets. They’ll be jumping at the chance to eat these.
I’m a big proponent of children in the garden. If at all possible, let your kids grow at least two or three things, even if it’s just a few herbs in containers. You’ll be starting them on a path of responsibility, determination, and ecological awareness. Besides which, they’ll have fun and enjoy learning. (And you thought it was just a garden?)
It wouldn’t be paisley if we didn’t have a recipe or two. Here you go…
- 1/2 lb Winged beans
- 1/2 c Steamed pork sliced into -small pieces [They’re in Julienne slices in the -photo. S.C.] (I confess, I have on occasion changed this to chicken, it was delish)
- 1/4 c Coconut milk (found in the Asian section at the super)
- 2 tb Fried sliced shallot
- 2 tb Coarsely ground roasted -peanuts
- 2 tb Fish sauce (on the Asian aisle if you don’t have a specialty market)
- 1 1/2 tb Sugar
- 2 tb Lime juice
- 1 sm Pan-roasted dried chilli (Here’s another use for all the peppers you’re growing…yup)
- 2 sm Roasted shallots
- 1 sm Roasted garlic bulb
Immerse the winged beans in boiling water for 3 minutes and then cut into small pieces. Bring the coconut milk to a boil and then remove from heat. Pound the chili, the roasted shallots, and the garlic well in a mortar; then add the sugar, fish sauce and lime juice, mix thoroughly and transfer to a bowl. Add the winged beans, pork (or chicken), boiled coconut milk, fried shallot, and peanuts, toss to mix well and then place on a serving platter. Serve with eggrolls or spring rolls. Yum!
I love to just blanch my winged beans for two to three minutes. Toss them in the wok with a little sesame oil and ½ cup of sesame seeds until they are tender and shiny. Serve them with this Miso Sauce:
2 cloves fresh pressed garlic
¼ cup good soy sauce
3 tsp dark sesame oil
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp finely grated ginger (I’m friends with ginger, but I don’t love it, so sometimes I leave it out, sometimes I put it in because my hubby and kids have a crush)
1 scallion, trimmed and minced
Mix this up one or two nights before you want it. (Of course, you can whisk it up day of, but you know I love a mellowed sauce)
Here’s where you can get yours:
Have a Paisley Winged Bean Day!~KeriAnne