Winged Beans
Fresh Winged Bean pods [Manila bean, Goa bean, Mauritius bean, Asparagus pea, Four-angled bean, Four-cornered bean, Winged pea; Sigarilyas (Philippine); Dau Rong (Viet); Psophocarpus tetragonolobus]

This tropical bean may have originated in Madagascar, but is now grown throughout the Asian tropics. The pods are the most common part used for food, but the tuberous roots are also quite popular. The seeds from mature pods, high in protein and oil, are eaten, but require long cooking to destroy trypsin inhibitors. Flowers and leaves are also edible and quite high in protein. The photo specimens were up to 7 inches long and 7/8 ounce.

Because of its high yield, high nutrition, fast growth and easy cultivation this bean is considered an "under-utilized" crop well worth introducing to tropical regions where it is not yet much grown, such as South and Central America, Africa and the Caribbean.

Previously, these could be grown only in the tropics, needing heat, lots of water and specific day length and night temperature. The new Hunan variety from China has made it practical to grow these in temperate regions.

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Fresh tubers Root Tubers of the winged bean can be eaten raw or cooked and are 20% protein, much higher than other edible roots. They have a nut-like flavor. Some varieties don't produce root tubers, and the size of tubers is affected by climate (cooler, bigger tubers). The photo specimens were being sold as snacks by a street vendor in Burma.   Photo by Wagaung distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

Drawing of Plant Leaves and Flowers of the winged bean plant are quite edible and have a much higher protein content than do most green leaves, 10 to 15%. Leaves can be cooked like spinach or eaten raw in salads, and flowers are a colorful, edible decorative for salads.   Watercolor painting of plant from Flora de Filipinas by Francisco Manuel Blanco (O.S.A.) copyright expired.

Pods have an interesting flavor, usually described as between snap peas and asparagus. They also have a very interesting shape and texture, with a light crunchiness. The crunchiness is still apparent with simmering up to 30 minutes. They are usually harvested between 4 and 6 inches long, but are said to be at their best at 4 inches or less.

Buying:   These are still scarce in North America, but have finally started to appear in the Asian markets of Los Angeles (2017). Some are said to also be grown in southern Florida. The new Hunan variety or similar is probably the one now grown in Southern California. The photo specimens were purchased from a large Asian market in Los Angeles for 2017 US $4.99 / pound.

Cooking:   Young pods can be eaten raw in salads, whole or cut, depending on size. In the Philippines, larger beans are often just sliced crosswise in short segments and stir fried with shrimp or pieces of pork, but they also work well in stews. Care should be taken not to over-cook, as they should have some crunch. Larger beans (4 to 6 inches) will still have some crunch after simmering up to 30 minutes.

Subst:   Snap Peas are probably your best bet, but adjust cooking time so they aren't overcooked. Recipes for Winged Beans can also be made with Long Beans, but the dark flavor of the Long Beans is quite different.

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