This last summer, I almost thought my Chinese Red Noodle beans (Vigna unguiculata) were done before they even started.
They were late to germinate, slow to grow, and the leaves turned an unappealing yellow by the time the vines were 6 inches tall. I nearly scrapped them altogether, but other garden chores placed the beans on the back burner. Curiously, the vines continued to grow, climbing vigorously up my trellis and sprouting new leaves every week.
But all they sprouted were leaves — no flowers. And those bright green leaves, which started out so promising, would mysteriously take on a yellow-speckled appearance, almost sickly. (Too much nitrogen? Invisible pests? I was never really sure.) The more mature lower leaves were almost dead. The vines were scraggly and thin. They were, quite frankly, the ugliest plants in my garden.
So the day I happened to walk by their plot with my gloves on, ready to yank them from the ground, I spotted the first blossoms. Big, beautiful blossoms resembling orchids. Three months after the first seeds were sowed, they finally decided to come out and play!
Once those first blossoms appeared, others followed suit. Not long after, deep red pods started to grow from them. And grow. And grow. Within a couple weeks, I had vines dripping with splendid bordeaux-colored beans nearly 2 feet long.
Yardlongs really give you bang for your buck. You only need a bean or two for a salad. A small handful works for a stir-fry. A bundle makes a delicious casserole — and unlike many other non-green beans, Chinese Red Noodle beans keep their beautiful color after cooking. I’ve always eaten green yardlongs before, so this rich red variety feels a little more special.
The bold color and long length are standouts on the Chinese Red Noodle, and yardlongs are one of nature’s oddities that always fascinates me. They bring me back to the days when my parents would fry them whole in a wok, and watch me try to pick up the long pods with chopsticks and pack the entire bean in my mouth. It’s quite a feat when you’re only 10 years old. (I’d like to say I’m a bit more refined now as an adult. Maybe.)
My yardlong beans are picked when the pods reach pencil thickness (they’re usually 16 to 22 inches long at this stage). The stringless pods are tender and fleshy with a complex flavor… a little nutty, a little mushroomy, but not as earthy. They definitely don’t taste like traditional pole beans — and I like that.
I plan to grow these again next year, but will space the plants a little closer — about 3 to 4 inches apart — for a more dramatic curtain effect with these deep red beans draping down. I think they would also look beautiful climbing on an arbor. They can climb like nobody’s business, easily surpassing my 6-foot trellis before showing any blooms.
And with the decent amount of beans I harvested from my “sick” plants, I think healthy plants would be quite prolific. Fingers crossed for next year!
VickenceSeptember 3, 2022 at 4:19 am
Hello! I have red noodle beans for the first time this year. Just sauted some last night, and I LOVE them! I heard some people also eat the leaves. Have you tried that?
IRON MANJune 26, 2014 at 10:02 am
I haven’t grown the red yard long beans yet but I’ve grown the green ones for years. They produce 3 weeks faster than my Blue Lake pole beans and just a week slower than my Kentucky Blue pole beans. do you want to see a miracle on your yellowed leafed bean plants and watch the new leaves come out dark green and the plant take off growing fast than you thought possible? Water them with chelated iron. Treat them twice about 2-3 weeks ago. The chelated iron usually has zinc in it which help too with the yellow bean plants. I had cucumbers next to the bean plants I was treating with the iron so they got a dose too. I never had seen cucumbers with leaves grow that big before. You can also add Ironite or some other iron suppplement to the soil before planting.
Linda LyJuly 2, 2014 at 2:48 pm
We have an iron supplement for our other plants, but I’ll have to look into it more. Thanks!
Kim Van ScoyMarch 3, 2014 at 10:33 am
I’m trying these for the first time this year. I’ve never grown yard long beans and I’m really looking forward to something new! Hopefully they will be a farmers market hit! Thanks for the good advice on not giving up. I’m a pretty impatient gardener.
Linda LyMarch 5, 2014 at 6:32 am
Good luck! It’s exciting to watch them grow once they get going… I sometimes think they gain inches overnight!
kathleenNovember 1, 2013 at 12:06 pm
would you ever exchange seeds? i would love to try some of these yardlong beans in my garden.
Linda LyNovember 1, 2013 at 10:50 pm
Unfortunately I don’t, but http://rareseeds.com is a good place to find these seeds.
CherrieSeptember 7, 2013 at 8:12 am
I too came looking on the web for info about growing these. Lots of sites say how quick they are to grow and produce. I planted some in April, in May…and maybe even some in June. I planted them with my corn so they could climb the corn stalks. It’s early September and a few purple beans are just starting to form (I did have a couple of HUGE, yellow, sickly beans form…which only underscored that there was something wrong with them). Now I’ll keep watching for them to get pencil thick. Tell me how you cook them? I have a weird habit of under or overcooking things. My purple beans I’ve finally taken to eating raw since I tend to ruin them when I cook them.
Linda LySeptember 7, 2013 at 3:03 pm
LOL I’ve grown these for a couple of years now, and they are definitely not quick to grow! Not like normal pole beans, anyway. I cook mine a few different ways, usually in a stir-fry with other veggies, and sometimes I’ll make a Thai curry with them. You can also pickle them using my dilly beans recipe: http://www.gardenbetty.com/2012/08/pickled-dilly-beans/ … Use them as you would any normal “green” bean.
BKDeckgardenerJuly 15, 2013 at 7:54 am
So glad to see your post – my red noodles are yellow enough that I was worrying about them and no blossoms yet, but as they reach 7 feet and grow inches each day it seemed impossible to pinpoint the “problem”! I will chill out and hope 🙂 Did you ever form a theory as to why they were so yellow or so slow to germinate?
Linda LyJuly 18, 2013 at 2:15 pm
My yardlongs have always been quick to germinate and slow to grow, so maybe that’s just in their nature. (Don’t know about the yellowing though… probably a soil or water issue.)
rookie gardenerJuly 7, 2013 at 8:13 pm
Thank you SO much for sharing your red noodle experience. I was worried about mine and you have given me bean hope!
markJune 17, 2013 at 5:23 pm
I planted these beans and they are sooooooo slow to grow! I hope they come on soon. Been 3 1/2 weeks of watching them inch along
Linda LyJune 19, 2013 at 3:06 pm
LOL! They definitely don’t grow as quick as my bush beans, but they’ll reach a point where they suddenly grow overnight it seems! Hang in there and stop watching them, will ya. 😉
DallasgardenbuzzJuly 31, 2012 at 12:00 pm
I just picked our first Chinese Red Noodle Bean and was glas to find your blog. Thanks!