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Wing beans are lime green and elongated with a square shape and four feathery, winged accents running from tip to end like the tail of an arrow. The pods are straight or curved with a smooth and waxy surface. They can grow up to 30 centimeters long but are usually harvested at 10 and 15 centimeters, before the peas have fully developed. Wing beans are sweet, like many pea varieties, and offer an asparagus-like flavor and crunchy texture.
Wing beans are available in the late spring and through the fall months.
Wing beans, also called Winged beans or Four-angled beans, are tropical legumes. They are botanically classified as Psophocarpus tetragonolobus and are commonly found in Southeast Asia. They grow on climbing stems and vines like other legume varieties such as snow peas and fava beans. In addition to being cultivated for its beans, the leaves, flowers, roots and dried seeds are also popular as culinary ingredients and are just as nutritious.
Wing beans are an excellent source of copper, iron, manganese, tryptophan, and the essential amino acid isoleucine. They are also rich in protein, fiber, complex carbohydrates, all of the essential B-complex vitamins, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, and potassium. The pods, leaves and roots all contain a similar nutrient makeup.
Wing beans are most often cooked. Young pods can be eaten raw in salads, sliced very thinly, or lightly blanched. They are prepared like French beans or snap peas by pinching off the ends and cutting into bite-sized sections. Use in stir-frys, sautés or add to soups and stews towards the end of the cooking process. The delicate pods pick up the bold flavors of chiles, garlic and spices. Young pods can be pickled. Mature beans are halved, and their seeds prepared and eaten like soybeans. Dried seeds can be ground and used as a flour substitute. Store Wing beans in a bag or airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Wing beans are popular in Sri Lanka and Southern India, where they are known as Dara dham bala and Goa bean, respectively. They are used in salads, pickled, and added to dahls, sambals and curries. In Myanmar and New Guinea, the roots are just as popular as the beans and resemble small sweet potatoes. They have a nutty flavor and are used like potatoes.
The exact origin of Wing beans is unknown, though they are believed to be native to New Guinea. Some researchers believe they may have originated in Africa, as they are sometimes referred to as Mauritius beans, for the small island country due east of Madagascar. They are only known to be cultivated and have not been found in the wild. They thrive in tropical climates with warm weather, humidity and abundant rainfall. They grow quickly, require little space and can produce beans within 3 months leading some food scientists to refer to them as an ‘underutilized crop’. Wing beans can be found in Southeast Asia, tropical Africa, Australia, Hawaii, Texas and Southern Florida. They are most popular in Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India and can be found in markets throughout the region.
Recipes that include Wing Beans. One is easiest, three is harder.