Long Beans are an ancient vegetable, with wild varieties of these plants still growing in tropical Africa, where they were likely introduced from Southeast Asia. The long bean is also known as the long-podded cowpea, asparagus bean, snake bean, or Chinese long bean. They have a very pronounced flavor and have a distinctly beany taste, and are not sweet like the green bean. Long beans work best briefly steamed, stir-fried, or braised, but also hold up well when added to stews. If you want them to be more juicy, blanch before stir frying. Long beans should be cut into 1-2 inch lengths for cooking. They should be stir fried or boiled, rather than steamed, which tends to make them too soft.
Long Beans, like other beans, belong to the family of plants known as legumes (Leguminosae or Fabaceae). They are not closely related to other beans such as pole beans, bush beans, snap beans or haricots (French beans), all of which belong to a different genus altogether. Long beans are more closely related to black-eyed peas, and may in fact simply be varieties thereof. However, in most recipes, long beans may be used in place of these other beans, although they are slightly less sweet and flavorful. Even when harvested, long beans are never stiff or crisp like green beans. They are most valued for their retention of color and texture when used in stews and other slow-cooked dishes.
Chinese and Southeast Asians eat the leaves and beans of the many types of long beans, including varieties with names such as Fowl’s Gut Bean, Asparagus bean and Yak’s Tail. Long beans are good source of protein, vitamin A, thiamin, riboflavin, iron, phosphorus, and potassium, and a very good source of vitamin C, folate, magnesium, and manganese.
Storing and Cooking Information
Handling: Break off dry ends. Rinse and shake dry. Snap in half crosswise or cut diagonally.
Storing: Store in the refrigerator, unwashed in a plastic bag for up to five days.
Freezing: Cut them to about 2 inches and then blanch them. Put them in freezer bags and place them in the freezer. When you're ready to cook them, do not thaw first, but add them straight to your cooking pan frozen.