By Peggy Crum, MA, RD, Health4U Nutritionist

Yardlong BeansHad Jack’s beanstalk not been chopped, he might have seen yardlong beans dangling from the vine. These fast-growing bean pods will gain several inches in length on a warm summer day. While they are long, yard-long may be a bit of a stretch. Consumers prefer yardlong beans when the pods are 10 to 20 inches in length and about as thick as a pencil. By the time they’re 3 feet long, the once-edible pods have become swollen with “shellies,” that is, mature edible beans inside the pods, good only for shelling.

Yardlong beans go by various names including Chinese long beans, asparagus beans, garter beans and snake beans. Like snap green beans and string beans, yardlong beans are the immature pods of vining plants. As such, they look quite a lot alike. But that’s where the similarities end. Set your expectations for an entirely different vegetable. They have a mild asparagus flavor and their texture tends to be dry, not sweet and juicy like typical green beans.

Select flexible, bright green bean pods that are half-a-yard long more or less, nice and smooth without the bumps and bulges that are a sure sign of maturing beans inside the pods. Even when fresh, limpness and wrinkles are to be expected. They’ll keep five days if stored in a zipper-lock bag in your refrigerator’s vegetable drawer.

To prepare yardlong beans, wash and dry them, then lay them out nice and straight, side-by-side for ease in cutting into uniform lengths. From there, unlike typical green beans that need blanching, steaming, or boiling, yardlong beans prefer to never touch cooking water. Great for stir fries, they are a veritable staple in Asian cuisine. A classic preparation method is to deep-fry them first, then add them back to the stir-fry pot with a sauce made of stock or coconut milk. They turn an enticing dark green when cooked.

Join Culinary Services Corporate Chef Kurt Kwiatkowski from 12:10 - 12:50 p.m. on Wednesday, October 21, at the Demonstration Kitchen in Brody Square as he demonstrates his Thai braised yardlong beans recipe during the Health4U Recipe for Health program. Try the beans during lunch at Brody Square and Riverwalk Market at Owen Hall.

Can’t make it to Brody Square for the event? Join us online for an MSU Alumni Association LENS live stream presentation. Learn more by watching this trailer and view the live stream here: http://livestream.com/msualumni/LongBeans.