Winged Beans or Four-Angled Beans are tropical legumes. Primarily found in southeastern Asia, these frilly-looking square-shaped pods are lime green with four feathered accents that run down the sides.
Not the typical green bean you find at your local market or grocery store.
So what can you do with Winged Beans? What types of cuisine are they found in? Can you even get them locally to you? Keep reading to find out even more about these fantastic beans.
A Brief History of the Winged Bean
The exact origin of the Winged Bean is unknown, but it is thought to be from tropical southern Asia–Papa New Guinea, Madagascar, or India.
The Winged Bean has also been found in small areas of Africa where they have been cultivated.
These legumes are used mainly in Thailand, Indonesia, Siri Lanka, and India. But you may find them floating around in the southern US as well.
Characteristics of the Winged Bean
The Winged Beans are tropical perennials that grow on sprawling vines like most other legumes. The vine grows vertically to heights of nine to twelve feet.
The lime-green pod is waxy and smooth, and they can grow up to twelve inches in length.
Winged Beans are grown in tropical climates.
They’re mainly found in places like Australia, Southeast Asia, and tropical Africa. In the US you’ll find them in Hawaii, Texas, and even southern Florida.
These legumes need warm temperatures to thrive. Before trying your hand at growing Winged Beans make sure you have the necessary hot and humid summer days.
As far as taste, Winged Beans are mild and sweet in flavor. Some say they even resemble the crunch and taste of fresh asparagus.
Not only are the beans edible, but it is common to see the flowers, seeds, roots, and leaves used in culinary applications.
Cooking with Winged Beans
Most of the time, you’ll eat these legumes fully cooked.
Winged Beans cook very similarly to the more familiar French Green Beans, where they are steamed or boiled and then blanched.
They are most commonly found in Siri Lanka and Southern Indian dishes but can be part of many different cooking applications.
You’ll find these beans in stir-frys, soups, and other sauteed dishes. When the plant matures, the seeds are used to create a flour substitute.
In Myanmar and New Guinea, the roots are used just as much as the beans in their cooking. They have a nutty flavor and are enjoyed in the same ways you would a sweet potato.
Not only are Winged Beans tasty, but they offer many great health benefits. They are known for their high protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrate levels.
Winged Beans also have all of the B-12 vitamins and are full of calcium, magnesium, zinc, and potassium.
What’s impressive is that you also get these health benefits by eating the leaves, seeds, and roots. That makes this one well-rounded edible plant.
Can you Grow Winged Beans at Home?
Winged Beans, as discussed above, typically grow in tropical climates, but could you take a stab at them in your home garden?
It depends on where you live and the type of climate you have.
Perennial or Annual?
Even though the Winged Beans are considered a perennial in tropical climates, if you try to grow them in the US, they are considered an annual because of the non-tropical environment.
Ideal Climate for Growing Winged Beans
In a nutshell, it needs to be warm, even hot, where you live for these beans to grow. Humidity and water also play a significant role when planting and growing the Winged Beans.
Growing From Seed
The biggest challenge of growing Winged Beans is getting the seeds to germinate.
The best practice is to soak the seeds for twenty-four hours in an area that maintains seventy-seven degrees Fahrenheit.
Once the seeds have swelled, keep them in the same area until they have sprouted.
Once the Winged Bean seeds have sprouted, space them six to twelve inches apart and sow one to two inches deep into moist soil.
Winged Beans need full sunlight to bloom; eight plus hours would be best.
Because of these plants’ tropical nature, you must always keep the top two inches of soil moist.
Soil and Fertilizer
Winged Beans don’t need much fertilizer as long as they are planted in a fertile soil mixture. You can achieve this by using good potting soil mixed with the ground soil.
These beans do not require pruning or pinching of their vines and leaves. Just be sure the vines have support in place for vertical growth.
You’ll want to harvest your Winged Beans about two to three weeks after flowering, or when they’re two to three inches long.
Once the beans mature beyond this time frame, they become more fibrous and they’re not as pleasant to eat.
Where to Buy Seeds
You can purchase Winged Bean seeds from True Leaf Market, one of our favorite online seed retailers.
Where to Purchase Fresh Winged Beans
If you’d like to enjoy winged beans without going through the hassle of growing them yourself, you may be in for a bit of a hunt.
Since they’re not commercially grown in the US, your best bet is to look for them at farmers’ markets in the southern part of the country. You can also contact specialty produce stores in your area to see if they might be able to order some for you.
Give the Winged Bean a Try!
The Winged Bean may be known under different names, but you can’t mistake their signature feathered square ends.
Even though these legumes grow in a tropical setting, depending on your climate, you may be able to grow them yourself by following the correct growing instructions.
Be sure to visit our Bean Plants page to learn more about your favorite beans or discover some you haven’t heard of before!