The Long Island Seed Project

Yard Long Beans,  Edamame Soy Beans,  Pole Lima Beans,  Fava

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Family: Fabaceae (Legume Family)

September, 2007

Yard Long Bean

Genus:  Vigna

YARDLONG BEAN (Vigna unguiculata)

Tender Annual Vine. Prefers warm soil and growing conditions.  These are the cowpeas that have been selected for their long thin green (or red-purple) beans which are of excellent flavor and chewy tenderness when harvested young (12-24" long) before pods swell with the developing seed.  These do very well on Long Island's sandy soils, better when irrigated.  Their productivity is greatest during the hot summer days. Versitile, tender leaves can be cooked as a potherb, green beans are good steamed or stir-fry and seeds are protein rich and might be cooked like crowders or cowpeas.  Developed in Southeast Asia for their thin long green beans well suited to stir-fry.  Seed crops are easy to produce on Long Island, and we maintain about 10 different kinds.


We began growing these vigna beans in the 1950's and have been collecting strains ever since.  Whether you call them Asparagus Beans, Yard-Long Beans or Edible Pod Cow Peas, we find that they produce well in summer heat and are always in demand steamed, stir-fried in olive oil with garlic or with a vinegarette.  

Edamame Soy Bean

Genus: Glycine

SOYBEAN, EDAMAME (Glycine max)

We grew out our collection of about a dozen edamame type soybeans this past summer and found that there were only a few star performers out of all the varieties.  The exotic black seed and brown seed types proved
failures.  Generally, I think of edamame beans as requiring a long season but our late planting produced a quick crop and we were able to produce a good quantity of seed.  Soy Beans are upright growing plants that are similar in growth to bush beans.


Pole Lima

LIMA aka Butterbeans (Phaseolus lunatus)


Many of the limas in our mix are pre-Columbian and quite untampered with.  While modern breeding has centered on bush lima beans with cream or green seeds for the processing industry, we focus on the these gems that are harvested off our deer fence.  They are worth growing for the sheer diversity and beauty of the dry seed and you may just find something new in lima flavor. 

Bean Culture and Seed Saving:  Beans (except for Fava Beans) are sensitive to cold temperatures and frost. They should be planted after all danger of frost is past in the spring and soil temperatures reach 60°F. Plant seeds of bush beans 2 to 4 inches apart in rows 24 inches apart. Plant seeds of pole beans 4 to 6 inches apart in rows 30 to 36 inches apart along a fence; or in hills around a pole (four to six seeds per hill) 30 inches apart. Beans are mostly self-pollinating so you should be able to save seed from particular plants in the row. For seed crops, let the bean pods dry right on the plant.  If the climate has high humidity or your crop is in danger of being blanketed by snow, pull the plants and hang them upside down in a shed or other protected location with good air circulation. When the pods are brittle dry you can shell them by hand;  or in larger amounts, thrash them and winnow the seed of the lighter chaff.

Fava Bean

Genus: Vicia

FAVA BEAN aka Broad Beans, Horse Bean (Vicia faba)

Hardy annual. Sow early or transplant. Withstands light frost.
Fava Beans have an interesting upright growth, totem pole-like. They can reach 2 feet or more in height. There are some types that have a tendency to branch but most don't. Their flowers and young leaves are edible but they're favored by some for their shelled green beans and dry beans. The flowers are typical legume with the same self pollination tendency as garden peas although crossing can occur especially if plants of different varieties are in close proximity.  Sow the seeds early before the days grow too hot. 

A late April sowing worked well for us here on Long Island with pods developing in June.  Even the large seeds shelled from green pods and boiled can have tough seed coats that must be peeled before eating.  Oh yes, there is a very rare affliction called favism which is an allergic reaction to favas.  Apparently, acute renal failure is a consequence of the reaction and a blood transfusion is necessary for best survival rates.


The usual white flowers are generally marked with white blotches but there are rarer forms.

Even if you're not a big fan of the flavor, try them with a nice chianti (as long as you're not allergic), the plants are a very effective legume cover crop in some areas of the U.S. with the ability to fix large quantities of nitrogen. We'll try it again in the fall but I don't expect to be able to produce a dry seed crop.

They're also a good trap plant for aphids and thrips. When you see the pests, pull the plants and destroy them. The tips with aphids can be pinched off and destroyed without affecting the harvest in most cases.


Pods of some varieties hang down from the stalk, others produce upright pods like the small seeded Eqyptian Fava.  To prepare for eating the green swollen pods should be opened to remove the large green seeds.

I've been puzzled by the lack of commercially available fava bean cultivars in the U.S. In Europe there are dozens of varieties available. This year we grew several types with limited success because of the early hot weather and persistant lack of rainfall. Fava is a good cool season crop suited to winter culture in the south or southwest and spring culture in the Pacific Northwest.  Here on Long Island, they struggle but with enough generations of selection, who knows?  The beautiful purple seeded Guatemalan Purple is available from Native Seed Search, Tucson, AZ 85705.

To save seed wait until the pods thoroughly dry on the stalks, be careful harvesting the dry seed since the pods do have a tendency to shatter easily.

Last Modified:  September, 2007