Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Farmers' Long Beans

Back in the winter of 2014 I mentioned that I planned to order some seeds for this variety from William Dam. I did order them, but they did not actually make it out into the garden last year. This year I made a little room for them, and I'm glad I did.

I planted them very late, around the 1st of July, as they went into one of the beds in which we grew early determinate green peas for freezing, after the peas were over. Just about the time (late August) when the heat was causing our regular green beans to really slow down, they started to produce, and they went right through September producing very well. These are advertised by William Dam as being cold-tolerant, which I believe they are, for this species of bean.

Long beans, also known as yard long beans, and asparagus beans are from a different species (vigna unguiculata subsp. sesquipedalis) than are the usual green and yellow beans grown around here (phaseolus vulgaris). They are really a tropical plant and until recently there were not any good northern adapted varieties. That is why their cold tolerance is emphasized by William Dam, but it is equally important to the Ontario grower that they are very heat tolerant as well, and will continue to set beans at temperatures that will leave all your common beans dropping their blossoms in despair. They are fast growing, and the beans are indeed much longer than common beans, although half-yard long beans would be a more accurate description.

Long beans are related to other southern beans; cow peas, black eyed peas, crowder peas, and less closely to mung and azuki beans. As the references to peas suggests, these are generally smaller beans than most common beans, sometimes much smaller. I am growing an Italian member of this family, Fagiolini di Trasimeno, and have had a fair bit of trouble to get them adapted to our long summer days. The Farmers Long beans don't seem to have this trouble, which is excellent. I grew a variety called Red Noodle a few years back, and it too had difficulties with the day length. I persisted with it for a few years, and it seemed to be improving, but eventually I gave up because I didn't love the flavour and the beans, while a beautiful purple when raw, turned so dark as to be almost black when cooked and did not look very appealing to me.

These ones seem to have no difficulty with day-length, and the flavour is excellent. Many people think long beans are better tasting than regular green beans, and I have to admit, I could be convinced. They are a bit different in flavour from regular beans, but probably not much more difference than you get between varieties of regular beans. Their length and delicate width make them very nice for working with in the kitchen.

I can't seem to find any reference to these other than the William Dam site. The name is sufficiently bland and generic as to make internet searching difficult, but while there are no doubt many other strains of long bean out there, only William Dam seeds to have this specific variety. The describe it as having been bred in Taiwan.  Agro Haitai have 5 different long beans, including Red Noodle, but none that seem to be the same as this one. They have a bush version if you wish to avoid trellising, but I suspect for best quality beans trellising is very desirable, and at any rate Farmers Long is long not only in the beans but in the plant - they will need very good support.

I did not have enough of these to freeze, so I cannot say how they will do if frozen.

Plant these, preferably not as late as I did, but with other heat lovers such as tomatoes, peppers and melons - June 1st would be the ideal date around here. As noted, good trellising will be required. The beans seem quite easy and disease resistant, in particular they have shown no signs of the anthracnose I have had in the garden the last few seasons (none of my vigna have). Like most beans, fertilizing should not be required. Steady amounts of water can do nothing but good, although they seemed moderately tolerant to intermittent water once they were growing well. 

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