Green gardening: Growing Asian beans

Beans play an important part in Chinese cuisine. They are eaten cooked, added to soups, sown thickly for bean sprouts, or dried for later use.

Green gardening: Growing Asian beans

Adzuki beans

Adzuki bean is a dwarf bean with a slightly sweet taste. It grows like a French bean and should be sown like regular bush beans. Although the beans can be eaten like snap beans, in China and Japan the seeds are made into a paste for deserts and pastries. The beans can also be sprouted and used in place of mung bean sprouts, they have a nutty taste. Or they can be dried for later. They need only a couple of hours soaking before cooking.

Good varieties to grow: Express and Tamba

  • In cold climates, sow them in cell-paks indoors and plant out once the frost is gone and the soil temperature has reached 15°C.
  • They take about four months from sowing to harvest, so where summers are long enough they can be sown outside once the soil is warm.
  • Sow the beans three centimetres (1 1/4 inches) deep, eight centimetres (3 1/4 inches) apart in rows 45 centimetres (18 inches) apart.

Soybeans

Soybean is the basis for a great range of products from soy milk and tofu, to soy sauce, miso paste, black bean sauce and a meat substitute known as vegetable protein. The beans can also be eaten fresh or dried, roasted, and eaten as a snack. Depending on the variety, the actual beans may be green, tan, yellow, white or black. The length of the growing season also depends on the variety, so check carefully for one that is suitable for your climate.

Good varieties to grow: Beer Friend (70 days), Envy (75 days), Butterbeans (90 days), and Black Jet (105 days)

  • Grow them like the Adzuki bean, either starting them indoors in pots or directly in the soil outdoors (depending on your growing season).
  • Space them eight centimetres (3 1/4 inches) apart in rows 30 centimetres (12 inches) apart.
  • They prefer a slightly acid soil and are rich in protein.

Yard-long beans

Yard-long bean is actually misnamed. Most varieties grow only half as long. They produce long, slender pods, about the diameter of a pencil. The young pods can be used like snap beans, cooked after being broken into short pieces, either as part of a stir-fry or added to soups. Being slender, they cook very rapidly. They taste like asparagus and are sometimes listed as asparagus bean. The leaves and young stems can also be picked, steamed, and served with olive oil. The beans vary in colour, depending on the variety.

Good varieties to grow: Mosaic with multi-coloured pods, Akasanjaku has light green pods with red seeds, while Kurojuroku has dark green pods and black seeds

  • These beans should not be planted out or sown until the night temperatures stay above 18°C. But they grow fast, cropping within three months.
  • They grow on a vine similar to pole beans, but are more aggressive, especially in hot summers.
  • Sow them in the same way as Adzuki beans and plant them 15 centimetres (six inches) apart in rows 60 centimetres (25 inches) apart.
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