I wanted to give a heads up for Winged Beans.

There has been some discussion here on BLF -- but not much.

There are a seriously wonderful vegetable.

I raise their flag now because my vine is still producing. And a well behaved vine it is too. Won't go feral. Requiring remarkably little space for its productivity.

If you are not familiar with Winged Beans  here's the drum:

The winged bean (Psophocarpus tetragonolobus), also known as the Goa bean, four-angled bean, four-cornered bean, Manila bean, and dragon bean, is a tropical legume plant native to New Guinea...

The entire winged bean plant is edible. The leaves, flowers, roots, and bean pods can be eaten raw or cooked; the pods are edible even when raw and unripe. The seeds are edible after cooking. Each of these parts contains vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron, among other nutrients. The tender pods, which are the most widely eaten part of the plant, are best when eaten before they exceed 2.5 cm (1.0 in) in length. They are ready for harvest within three months of planting. The flowers are used to colour rice and pastry. The young leaves can be picked and prepared as a leaf vegetable, similar to spinach. The nutrient-rich, tuberous roots have a nutty flavour. They are about 20% protein; winged bean roots have more protein than many other root vegetables.[4] The leaves and flowers are also high in protein (10–15%).[4]

The seeds are about 35% protein and 18% fat. They require cooking for two to three hours to destroy the trypsin inhibitors and hemagglutinins that inhibit digestion.[4] They can be eaten dried or roasted. Dried and ground seeds make a useful flour, and can be brewed to make a coffee-like drink.


Unfortunately Winged Bean grown from seed can be a bugger to get going but scarification and soaking is recommended. See the DIY here. They may also be slow in the early growth period...

And then, they take off. Albeit when it suits them.

I also found this confusing bit of info:

Basically, growing winged beans is a very similar process to growing bush snap beans. The Asian winged bean seeds are difficult to germinate and must be scarified first or soaked in water overnight prior to planting. ...Winged beans need short, cool days to promote blooming; however, they are frost sensitive. In south Florida they are grown in winter; farther north the shorter, yet, frost-free days of fall are more ideal. The plants grow best in hot, wet climates with 60-100 inches of rain or irrigation per year and are, thus, not a good crop prospect for many regions of the United States.

Reaching 3 metres, but compared to other climbers they are  not greedy as to space requirements as they are compact in their growth.

While a perennial, Winged Bean is commonly grown as an annual.

I've been experimenting with a few varieties of 'pole' beans  and I reckon these darlins are up there as the most useful and productive  beans to grow.

Whereas other pole beans will lose so much texture and favour if not picked daily, Winged Bs  keep their taste longer on the vine. And they crop unevenly so that your harvest is easily staggered.

(Although that's not Elaine's experience...)

One or two vines should suffice for normal domestic needs.


The bigger the bean the more chance that some bitterness and stringiness may set in. Always crisp they are very  versatile in the kitchen as they serve not only as a green bean -- like other legumes -- but as a crispy vegetable for soups and stir fries.

I like to chop them roughly for soup.

I've eaten all of my harvest(but there is more coming), so I haven't frozen any -- so I cannot rule on that option.

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  • I was given a seedling last year and had a great harvest from that one vine. Now I have a small collection of bean seeds to try and sprout, when is the best time to attempt this in Brisbane?
    • They need a bit of warmth to get going. So maybe November is a good time.

      To get them going scarification of seeds with sandpaper or file is a good idea  and  seed soaking in warm water  overnight will also  increase speed of germination.

      If you bring them on in seed pots, you can plant them earlier -- but let them consolidate well before planting out.

      Their growth thereafter is fickle but they need a bit of cooler weather to start blooming. That's the weird part. What's 'tropical' about that?

  • I was pondering  the feature that winged bean production is  ruled by sunlight.

    How is it that a tropical plant needs a period of less sunshine? Mine didn't start producing heavily until Autumn/Winter.

    But here's the explanation better said than elsewhere:

    Winged beans tend to be light sensitive and crop best during the shorter light hours of autumn and winter, with reduced crops over the summer months. However, they are also frost sensitive.

    • A lot of gardeners go with the idea that plants will crop/breed if they think they might die.  I can see that would be adaptive in an evolutionary sense.  In line with that theory, they are simply breeding when they have most chance of dying off (less light signals winter signals potential for cold and frost). 

  • Now that My Rozie has retired, I wouldn't mind doing a little bit of "beany work" with you Dave.  I'd like to do a compare/contrast of the Madagascar with the Winged bean. 

    You can't eat the pod of the M.bean.  However, it's one hell of a producer, lasts for ages and is great as a fresh or baked bean, mashed to make patties and all sorts of stuff.  It looks like the W.bean is fairly similar. 

    My interest is do they have alternative uses that would suggest growing both, or just one?

    • what is the overlap in use?
    • what is the difference in use (eg. you can eat the pods of the winged beans)?

    To double bean or single bean?  That is the question!

    • Winged Beans are primarily eaten whole. Like Snap Beans. Except they are bigger, thicker and crispier. They can be -- but seldom are -- grown for the beans inside the pod.

      Their growth habit, in my experience, is similar to Madagascar Beans, although Winged Beans are more open and probably less 'perennial'.

      So a cooked Winged Bean dish looks like THIS.

      You'll also find Elaine extolling the taste of the flowers...

      Then there are the leaves and roots which I've not eaten -- but will start with the leaves tomorrow in my soup.

      As for you and your preferences: definitely. I'd go AC/DC -- both ways.

      This is an excellent bean for many gardens. Assuming you can get the seeds to sprout.

      You'll get seeds for planting online but some Asian grocers stock them.

      My seedling supplier  at the Caboolture Mkts often has plants for sale.Warren is a true SEEDMASTER I assure you.

      As for uses...

      • I chop them coarsely into lengths and throw them into soup.
      • Stir fried either whole, cut across or length ways.
      • Since I cook a lot of Romano (meaty) pole beans these go well in all those dishes. See here for examples. So we are taking serious Italian.
      • You'll find them in Thai and other East Asian dishes.

      The confusion is the question, why aren't they more popular and well known?

      In virtually every  country where it is grown, it is a crop planted by the farmer or homeowner for his own use along the rice field borders, hedges, roadside fences, or in the backyard garden against the house or a nearby tree.

      So don't expect to buy them at Woolies...and I haven't seen them available at the markets either. Even though, in my experience, they keep well for a crisp thing.

      When you clock up the possibilities as a cover crop, animal  forage and soil inoculate... i was wondering until I read this:

      To some extent the plant has been a victim of its own potential. During the 70's some development groups over promoted winged beans as an all-purpose wonder crop that could end hunger, in much the way leucaena was promoted as the answer to deforestation. Exaggerated or misleading claims were made. For example, maximum yield figures were given for leaves, fruit, and tubers without pointing out that increasing the yield of one edible part of the plant was generally at the expense of the others and that it was impossible to get anything near the maximum yield for all the edible parts from one plant. Often varieties were planted that were inappropriate for the region because of specific day length requirements for blooming. As a result many groups were profoundly disappointed with brief experiments planting winged beans. Despite these setbacks, winged beans are the real thing botanically. They are well worth the renewed effort that will be needed to learn locally practical ways to utilize what they have to offer.

      The same reference goes onto point out (this is a good summary):


      - The ultimate multi-purpose crop for small farmers and gardeners in the tropics
      - Tasty, mild flavored greens
      - Fresh leaves are 5-7% protein which is exceptionally good for tender leafy greens
      - Not only are winged bean leaves high in protein but the quality of that protein is superior to that in most leaves.
      - Strong nitrogen fixing legume with unusual number of nodules
      - Winged bean leaves can be extraordinarily productive. According to Duke, 1981; and Oomen and Grubben 1977, winged bean leaves can produce about 8,000 kg/ha in 60 days or less. This comes to 135 kg/ha per day. This comes to about 63,500 calories; 6.75 kg of protein; 108 grams of calcium; 2.7 grams of iron; 4.1 grams of b-carotene; and 39,150 mg of vitamin C per hectare per day.
      - Tolerates heat
      - Tolerates acid soil
      - Apparently can utilize inexpensive readily available cowpea inoculant to begin nodulation when introduced to new areas


      - Very susceptible to waterlogging
      - Very susceptible to frost and cold weather
      - Seeds are difficult to germinate. They should be scratched or soaked in hot water before planting.
      - Most varieties have photoperiod sensitivities (they bloom only with specific day lengths) that limit the plant's success in many locations.
      - Needs good drainage
      - Needs lots of water; 1500 mm (c. 58") for good growth; 2500 mm (95") or more for top production
      - The 'wings' on fresh winged beans are very delicate which makes them more difficult to handle and to ship than other fresh bean variety.


      - Blue flowers sometimes used to color rice and pastries for special occasions
      - Although winged beans are strong nitrogen fixers, much of the nitrogen fixed from the air doesn't become available until the next crop is planted. As a result if you are growing winged beans primarily for the leaves it is useful to add an external source of nitrogen to the soil.
      - Yields of fresh pods are normally between 10-15 tons per hectare, though yields as high as 40 tons have been reported.
      - Tubers are 8-10% protein and are the generally preferred winged bean product in much of the Pacific. Tuber yields generally are between 5-10 tons per hectare.
      - Though a perennial vine, it is often grown as an annual
      - Grows well from sea level to 2000 meters
      - Typically planted 2.5 -7.5 cm deep about 10 cm apart for foliage, at beginning of rainy season
      - Trellised plants produce twice the seed of unstaked plants.
      - Picking flowers increases tuber yield

      OF NOTE, I guess, is that my seeds on my vine suit my location. So once they can be harvested for future plant outs maybe I'll be in the know horticulturally. Pity I can't remember where I got supplied from.

      Indeed, I have had failures over a few years.

      Reminds me of pawpaws' preference for neighbourhoods....

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