06 Mar UNIQUE GARDEN EATS: SNAP OUT OF YOUR BEAN RUT
Most of us start out growing snap beans and then stay there in our cozy comfort zone — after all, what’s easier and more tasty than a good snap bean? Plus, kids love them and they give newbie gardeners a sense of accomplishment. But if you’ve been gardening for a while and want to branch out into something a bit more adventurous, have I got some sweet recommendations for you!
Edamame beans: Most people love edamame purchased from the store — lightly steamed and salted, they’re like manna from heaven. But you can grow them at home and save the money! These tender pods are actually young soybean, and surprisingly easy to grow.
How to grow: Rule #1 (and this rule shall not be broken) is to plant edamame in soil that is a minimum of 65 degrees. Ignore this rule at your peril, and be prepared to have terrible germination rates. Direct sow the seeds 2 inches apart in full sun, and thin to 4-6 inches apart once they’re big enough. Give them consistent irrigation (one inch of water weekly), and mulch to maintain the soil moisture.
How to harvest: Pods that are bright green and plump are good to go. Overripe pods will have a yellowish color, and the beans will quickly lose their sweetness.
Varieties to try: ‘Shirofumi,’ ‘Midori Giant,’ ‘Envy’
Hyacinth beans: Hyacinth beans are a vining plant that deliver crazy cool purple or green pods with violet or white flower clusters (great for cut flowers, by the way). Every part of this ornamental and tasty plant is edible, from the leaves and flowers to the immature pod. Mature seeds, however, require thorough cooking to remove a toxic compound.
How to grow: This is a heat-loving plant with the white varieties requiring an even longer growing season. Give them full sun and a decent structure to climb on, because they can grow from 8-15 feet. Consistent moisture yields the tastiest crops.
How to harvest: Young leaves are tender and can be harvested and cooked similar to spinach. Use the flowers as edible garnishes in salads and entrees. Harvest pods when they are still young and about 1 ½” long — de-string and use them as substitutes for snow peas.
Varieties to try: ‘Purple Moon,’ ‘Ruby Moon,’ ‘Moonshadow’
Yard-long beans: Also called Noodle Beans, yard-long beans offer bright green foliage with beans that grow as long as two feet! I love a plant that is both unusually ornamental and delicious — and if you have children, you might find that this bean plant is enough to get them interested in gardening and eating their veggies in one fell swoop.
How to grow: Like edamame, yard-long beans demand warm soil for best germination. Make sure they get full sun, a bit of compost, regular irrigation, and a vertical support (trellis or fence) for 8-12 feet of growth. Direct sow seeds 3 inches apart, thinning to 6 inches apart when they’re big enough. While they are twining vines, you may need to encourage the twining in the early days to get them going.
How to harvest: Harvest when pods are 10-15 inches long, have a pencil-sized diameter, and show a smooth skin. Harvesting too late (when the pods are two feet long and bumpy) and you may be disappointed with both the taste and the texture. Shoot tips and leaves are also edible.
Varieties to try: ‘Orient Wonder,’ ‘Red Noodle,’ ‘Liana’
About the Author:
Jenny Peterson is a landscape designer and urban farmer living in Austin, Texas. She comes from a family of gardeners and her gardens include drought-tolerant plants, herbs, veggies, and a wildflower pollinator garden. As a breast cancer survivor, Jenny specializes in gardens that heal from the inside out.