Truth in advertising: “yardlong beans” are not actually a yard long. More like half a yard. Which is looooonnng! Plus they’re purple. And fun! Oh, yes, and tasty. We’ve become big fans.
We’re growing our yardlongs on arches made of cattle panels. The resulting tunnels are shady and inviting, and make it easier to harvest.
These beans are in the cowpea family rather than the green bean family, which explains why they grow so well in the dead of summer. The large blossoms are highly attractive to bumblebees and many other beneficial pollinators.
The key is knowing how to cook them. With most vegetables, the big no-no is overcooking. Yardlongs (and eggplant) are the exception to the rule. An undercooked yard long bean (or eggplant) tastes, well, undercooked, rather than fresh. Flavorful, chewy and dense, yardlongs pair well with spicy, salty and slightly sweet sauces. You can chop up the beans and cook them alone or with other veggies, or cook them whole and wrap a handful of them into pretzel shapes for a striking presentation.
Their length makes prep a snap; wash, snip off the bud end, chop and cook. Please note t
hat the long strands will be limp and slightly wrinkled even when they’re fresh. Try pairing them with eggs, in stir fries with some Thai roasted chile paste, or stewed with tomatoes. Lia’s favorite way to cook yardlong beans is a simple stir-fry; some oil, lots of garlic and/or ginger, then yard long beans and fairly high heat until they are well-cooked and slightly blackened. JoBeth offers a recipe below.
Yard Long Beans with Sweet Potatoes & Coconut Milk
1 pound yard-long beans, cut into 2-inch slices
1/4 pound sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2 segment
1 T curry powder
1 tsp. turmeric powder
2 tsp. cooking oil
1-inch piece galangal or ginger, crushed & sliced
1 tsp. shrimp paste
1/2 C coconut milk
3/4 C water
1 tsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add curry powder, galangal/ginger, and turmeric to pot and stir. Add sweet potatoes and allow to slightly brown. Add shrimp paste.
Add the beans and cook another 2 minutes until the beans are lightly browned.
Add the coconut milk, water, sugar and salt to pot and let liquid simmer for 20 minutes until beans and squash are tender but not mushy. Serve warm.