If you’re looking for an exciting and massive bean plant to add to your home garden, then en garde and prepare for a whopper. Be forewarned, however, that the bean we’re about to discuss takes time to cultivate and prepare.
However, if you’re up for the challenge, you’ll find that the Sword Bean is well worth the trouble. You’ll also find that this bean has several uses, but self-defense isn’t one of them.
A Brief History
Sword beans were initially found primarily in parts of India and China. Over the years, however, they have become popular in other parts of the world, including Madagascar, Japan, Indonesia, and Korea.
Because of how exotic a plant it is, it’s unknown when these beans were first planted or who had the honors. However, we know that it originated somewhere in the tropics of the Old World and has been around for centuries.
Characteristics of the Bean
The most distinguishing feature of the Sword Bean is its unusual size. However, there’s more to this bean than meets the eye.
The best way to describe the taste of these beans is that they’re very similar to broad beans. They have a very earthy and nutty flavor with subtle hints of sweetness and butter.
Sword beans are the type of bean you can tell is fresh from the earth. It tastes like a stereotypical green vegetable with a flavor that isn’t for everyone.
Sword beans are contained in pods that are long and green. Inside the pods, however, you’ll find seeds that vary in color but are usually somewhere between brown and pink, ending up close to red.
The bean pods grow on climbing vines that are green and leafy. The leaves are just as green as the pods, but they don’t get quite as big.
You can also find white flowers on the plant at certain times of the year.
Like we said before, the beans found inside the pods are reddish or brown, and there are typically between ten and fifteen beans in a pod. While the individual beans are nowhere nearly as large as the pods, they’re bigger than a typical bean.
The most pronounced feature of these beans is their incredible size. The pods themselves can grow up to or over one foot in length, which is why it gets its fitting name.
In addition to growing a foot long, the pods are also several inches wide. Contained inside the bean pod, you can find up to fifteen seeds.
These incredible specimens grow on vines measuring up to 30 feet long. So, if you plan to plant these beans at home, prepare plenty of space.
Best Ways to Consume the Sword Bean
One of the downsides of these beans is that you have to be careful when you eat them. Sword beans can be poisonous if consumed in large quantities or if they aren’t prepared correctly.
To eat raw, you must remove the seed coating from the beans and boil them several times in water. It’s also important that you change out the water after every use.
Once you prepare the bean, you can optionally eat it raw, mix it in a casserole or dish (like this curry), or can it for later use.
In addition to eating, these beans are also used as a protective blanket or cover crop for other plants. It’s also a great source of fodder and animal food for farmers or a decorative climbing plant around the house.
If you plan to use the bean as food for your animals, you’ll have to take the same preparation precautions as you would for yourself. Dry sword beans can be toxic to animals if eaten in large quantities or improperly prepared.
Where to Buy Sword Beans
Now for the bad news. It’s not going to be easy to find fresh sword beans to buy because they aren’t grown commercially in the US.
Farmers’ markets or specialty produce markets are your best bet.
One of the reasons these beans are so popular throughout the world is because of their health benefits. In Korea and Japan, the Sword Bean is somewhat of a wonder food.
Here are some of the things that it’s used to treat.
- Lumbago of the kidneys
- Abdominal dropsy
- Inflammatory Diseases
Be advised, however, there is very little factual information on the effectiveness of the Sword Bean in treating these conditions. We only know that it’s used in an attempt to do so.
What we do know for certain is that Sword Beans are a good source of protein, energy, fiber, Vitamin A, and carbs.
Growing and Caring for the Sword Bean
If you want to add these delightful beans to your garden, here’s what you need to know.
Despite being tall and vast, Sword beans don’t need much space. You should plant each seed roughly six inches apart from other bean seeds and two inches deep in the ground.
Remember, these beans are climbing plants, so make sure you add supports behind each plant.
Sunlight and Water
Make sure your beans get a minimum of six hours of sunshine per day.
As for water, there isn’t an exact science to the process. You should water the seeds the same day you plant them and continue to water as necessary to ensure the soil stays moist but never soggy.
Your soil should be loose, nutritious, and well-draining. It should also have a pH of 5 to 6, as these beans prefer slightly acidic to neutral soil.
When to Plant
The best time to plant your Beans is mid to late spring. They take roughly six weeks to bloom and will be ready for harvest around 100 days after planting.
The key with these beans is to ensure they are never exposed to frost because they’re a tropical plant. They thrive in many soils and climates but are most successful in hardiness zones 10 through 12.
Pests and Diseases
Sword beans are very hardy plants, and other than frost and root rot, they don’t have many pests or diseases that target them.
When to Harvest the Sword Bean
Your beans should be ready for harvest roughly 100 days after you plant them. Typically, this is from mid-summer to early fall.
Where to Buy Seeds
While these aren’t as easy to find as the more common kinds of beans, they can be found online. We recommend visiting one of our favorite retailers, True Leaf Market, where you’ll find two kinds of sword bean seeds sold.
Grow Some Giants in the Bean World!
As you can see, there’s a lot to love about the Sword Bean. It’s big, nutritious, delicious, and isn’t grown commercially, so growing it yourself is one of the only ways to try it out.
If you hope to enjoy Sword beans or other beans, visit our beans page page for all our legume-related blog posts!