I started pulling some of my fading summer crops the other week, including what was one of my favorite plants of the whole season — the delicious and distinctive Dragon Tongue bush bean (Phaseolus vulgaris), a Dutch heirloom introduced in the 18th century.
I admit that I have a bias for purple plants in the garden. I love how the vibrant color just pops out against a monochromatic sea of grass, kelly, hunter and lime.
And with beans, sometimes it can feel like a neverending Easter egg hunt when you’re harvesting those long green pods camouflaged among long green vines.
Dragon Tongue bush beans, on the other hand, dangle like disco Christmas ornaments on compact bushes about 2 feet tall. The tender pods grow 6 to 7 inches long, with lavender to deep purple mottling on their pale yellow shells.
I like to get more bang for my buck and will sometimes let the beans grow even longer, up to 8 inches. Though more mature at this stage, the beans remained tender and stringless with full flavor.
The purple color fades a bit when cooked, as most purple beans do, but I prefer to eat the Dragon Tongue raw — it looks beautiful in salads. It is sweet and loaded with flavor, which is rare to say for a lowly bean. Even my non-gardening, non-foodie friends can’t believe, firstly, that this is a “green” bean, and secondly, how fresh and sweet it tastes.
The plants produced well throughout the summer, enough to keep me busy picking beans every day… I almost couldn’t keep up with the yields from six plants! Though those initial plants are now in the compost pile, I succession-sowed a second crop mid-summer, so I’m looking forward to even more delectable pods in a few weeks!