Winged Bean, Day Neutral
days to maturity: 75 days
plant spacing: 2 plants per square foot
sunlight requirements: 6-14 hours
look out for: mites and aphids in growing tips
harvest notes: harvest tubers 120-200 days after planting
While its hard to pick a "favorite legume" we for sure know that ours is the frilly and delicious Winged Bean. While this 4 sided ruffled bean may look too crazy to be food, its known commonly as "asparagus bean" because its flavor is so similar to the revered asparagus shoot. This tropical perennial does more than just make crazy lookin' beans.... every part of this fast growing legume is edible. Its tuberous root is eaten as a starch cooked or raw, its leaves are eaten like spinach, the periwinkle flowers are sweet and edible, and the bean is edible raw or cooked as a green pod, or cooked as a shelled bean.
Native to New Guinea this bean is quite popular in Southeast Asia and all parts of the plant are rich in protein, the root tubers being some of the most protein rich starches grown for food (20% by volume). Despite its comfort in the tropics winged bean has become quite popular with American veggie gardeners and is being grown in all zones including the northern ones like Washington, Colorado and New Jersey. The key to growing winged bean as an annual during the summer is choosing the "day neutral" variety. "Day neutral" winged beans will produce flowers and beans despite the long days of summer, while the non-day neutral types will produce only vegetative growth during the summer and wait for the shorter days of fall and winter to make flowers and fruit.
Our Day Neutral winged beans planted at our farm are 2 months old and already making fruit. Allow the plant to get quite large on a trellis and it will produce hundreds of bean pods for you! Expect this bean plant to get quite large as it matures, so either give it a track of fence to grow on, or a substantial trellis. Allow a few pods to dry on the plant and they can be cracked open for next years seed stock.