The winged bean is a wild-sounding and completely edible bean variety that probably originated in Papua New Guinea and is popular throughout Southeast Asia. The leaves, flowers, seedpods, beans, and even the tuber can be eaten. The winged bean has uniquely shaped seed pods and beautiful blue flowers on twining vines that can reach 10 feet high.
The bright green pod has four, frilly ridges running lengthwise and can grow to 8.5 inches long. As the bean pod seeds mature, the pod turns brown.
– Start winged bean seeds in the spring after all danger of frost is gone and the soil has warmed. Drop the seeds in a clean jar or glass, and fill the jar halfway with water. Place the jar in a warm place where it won’t be disturbed. Change the water in the jar twice a day for two days. This soaking will help the seeds to germinate.
– Dig your garden plot in a warm and sunny location away from any obvious sources of shade, such as large trees or outbuildings. Place the plot near a patio or alongside a sidewalk to take advantage of the residual heat from the concrete, if possible. Winged beans are tropical plants and love their feet to be warm.
– Dig the garden plot down to a depth of 12 inches, and remove any obstructions such as roots or weeds. Mix in a 3-inch layer of compost.
– Plant the seeds 1 inch deep, and space the seeds every 6 inches. Insert a sturdy trellis or series of poles along the row of beans. Bury the posts deeply, as these beans grow very vigorously and need a sturdy support system.
– Water the winged bean plants thoroughly, and keep them well-watered but not soaked. Pinch off the tops of the plants when they are about 12 inches tall to encourage branching and spreading. Fertilize the plants after 1 month by side-dressing with 1 cup of 20-10-10 fertilizer for every 10 square feet of garden.
Water and Humidity
As with most plants grown in the heat of the summer, it’s best to water your winged bean in the morning so that the moisture has a chance to absorb into the soil before the heat of the day.
Winged bean seeds also require plenty of moisture in order to germinate. To aid in germination, it’s best to soak the seeds for 24-48 hours before planting out. This step can be skipped, but it may take them up to 3 weeks to germinate without it.
Winged beans do best in an average, neutral ph soil. They can survive in multiple soil types such as clay, silt, or loam soil.
Your winged bean plants prefer soil amended with plenty of organic matter via quality compost. It does not require a nitrogen-rich fertilizer. If it receives too much nitrogen, it will put on a lot of leaves and vines, but will not produce many blossoms or winged bean seed pods. Having said that, phosphorus and potassium are both beneficial for the winged bean, particularly phosphorus as it aids in flowering.
The protein-rich pods are ready to harvest when they are bright green, tender, and still flexible, about 2 weeks after blossoms appear. Young green pods, like snap peas, can be eaten raw pod and all. Once the pods become tough and fibrous, then they are harvested for the seeds inside, which require a 2-3 hour cooking process to make them digestible.
While the pods, leaves, and flowers are ready to pick within about 75-80 days, their roots won’t be ready until about 120 days. At the end of the season, dig up the plant to reveal the tuberous roots. They can be used similarly to potatoes and can be boiled, steamed, baked, fried, or made into chips.
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Video source: TEO Garden