Yardlong beans, also known as sitaw in Filipino, are a staple in many Asian cuisines. In the Philippines, they are valued for their slightly sweet flavor and crisp texture.
What are yardlong beans?
Yardlong beans are part of the legume family, along with peas, beans, lentils, and peanuts. They are known by many names, such as asparagus beans, Chinese long beans, snake beans, and long-podded cowpeas.
Its scientific name—Vigna unguiculata subsp. sesquipedalis—provides a clue about their unique characteristic. The term "sesquipedalis" means "a foot and a half long" in Latin and indicates the length of many of its varieties.
These immature pods have a distinctly long and slender appearance. The skin is usually light to dark green, though some cultivars can be red or purple.
What do yardlong beans taste like?
Yardlong beans have a slightly sweet and nutty flavor with a chewy, crunchy texture. They are comparable in taste and texture to green beans or snap peas but have a slightly firmer texture. These beans are versatile and mild in flavor.
Yardlong beans vs. green beans
Both beans are legumes harvested and consumed as immature pods before their seeds fully develop. Yardlong beans are long and slender, with pods growing about 12 to 30 inches long.
Green beans (or string beans) are shorter, wider, and range from 4 to 6 inches long. They taste similar, but yardlong beans are thinner and crunchier.
In Filipino cuisine, they are often stir-fried or sautéed with aromatics, meat, and other vegetables. They can also be blanched and added to soups and stews.
In Western cuisine, green beans are more common and used in everything from casseroles to salads. Overall, you can use yardlong beans interchangeably with green beans.
Are yardlong beans healthy?
According to an article in ResearchGate, yardlong beans are nutrient-dense, low in calories, and high in fiber. They are a good source of folate that promotes fetal development, while their protein content helps build and repair body tissues.
These beans contain vitamins and minerals—Vitamins C and A, iron, potassium, and magnesium—that support immune function, vision health, and cardiovascular health.
The high levels of antioxidants protect against cellular damage and may lower the risk of chronic diseases.
How to buy
Look for firm, crisp, and brightly colored beans. They should have a slight snap when bent. Avoid any beans that are wilted, bulging, or have soft spots.
As they can vary in size, choose beans that are between 12 and 18 inches long with thin, straight pods. Those that are too thick can be tough and fibrous.
Light-colored beans are known to be more delicate with a milder taste. Dark-colored ones have a slightly tougher texture and a more robust flavor, ideal for recipes that require a heartier texture.
How to store
Refrigerate the beans for up to 5 days in an airtight container or plastic bag, preferably wrapped in a paper towel to absorb moisture. Do not wash them until you're ready to use them.
To extend their shelf life, consider blanching them before freezing to maintain their texture. Freezing is an excellent way to preserve them for future use.
How to prepare
Rinse them thoroughly and trim the ends using a knife or scissors. For smaller and younger beans, you can snap them using your fingers. Cut the beans into pieces, depending on your recipe.
You can cook them in many ways, including stir-frying, sautéing, and blanching before incorporating them into soups and stews.
Filipino recipes with yardlong beans
Being readily available and affordable, these beans are widely used in Filipino cuisine. Here are some ways:
- Ginataang Kalabasa: Squash simmered in coconut milk along with aromatics and protein such as shrimp, crab, or pork. Some variations may include vegetables like sitaw (yardlong beans) and malunggay (moringa).
- Pinakbet: Braised mixed vegetables with okra, eggplant, bitter melon, squash, and yardlong beans, sautéed shrimp paste and proteins like shrimp or pork.
- Adobong Sitaw: Yardlong beans cooked in traditional adobo ingredients of vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, black pepper, and sometimes made with pork.
- Sinigang (Sour Soup): Yardlong beans, along with other vegetables, in a sour and savory soup made with pork, shrimp, or fish and a souring agent like tamarind or calamansi.
- Bicol Express: A spicy Filipino stew made with bite-size pieces of pork simmered in coconut milk, shrimp paste, and chilies.
- Ginisang Sitaw: Sautéed yardlong beans with onions, garlic, and tomatoes. Some recipes include proteins like pork, chicken, or shrimp.
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