Vigna Unguiculata

Sitaw – Asparagus beans – Yard Long Beans

This bean belongs to the legume family and just by planting it alone helps in the enrichment of the soil with nitrogen. It is an annual vine like a pole bean and needs staking or a trellis for it to grow profusely.

It will produce purplish flowers followed by beans in pairs. The leaves are green and heart-shaped. It is easy to grow from seeds. Just like other beans you might want to soak the bean seeds first at least overnight before planting for faster germination. You need to plant it where you want it situated in the garden preferably in a sunny spot, amend the soil with compost, water regularly and within a month or so, you will be harvesting long beans. You must harvest them when they are still young and dark green in color, depending on the variety, otherwise the bean production will diminished. It is also recommended that you plant in succession to prolong the harvesting season.

We grow two varieties of sitaw, the shorter variety 4-5 inches long which is I believe called the cowpea and the other one which is longer, up to 12 inches or more. Both are good and nutritious but the longer variety is my favorite because it is more tender when cooked. It comes from light green to medium to dark green in color. But I recently found out that we also have a purple colored variety. Not surprising, I supposed, because we have string bush beans that have purple color too. I am amazed how vegetables can be so colorful and beautiful, not to mention delectable too. But my recent research lead me to another variety called the “red noodle” so aptly name because the color of the pod is red. I have not seen the real one though, just a picture in the internet. I plan to have seeds of the red one and see how it will grow in my garden. Sometimes, I grow vegetables as a challenge.

Long beans or sitaw is very popular in Southeast Asian Cuisine. In the Philippines, it is one of the main ingredients in the ever-popular Filipino dish called “bulanglang”. But you can use it in just about any recipe that calls for beans. We use it also in Kare-kare, (oxtail stew), Beef Sinigang, (Beef in sour Soup), and stir fries. We also make adobo out of it. In Thai recipes, they use it in green papaya salad.

Yard long beans are also nutritious and a good source of fiber. They are rich in Vitamin C, Beta-Carotene, Folic Acid, and Calcium. I highly recommend adding this versatile vegetable in your “potager” or cottage garden.