The Nation's Health + Winged bean

Winged bean
Health tips

Seasons/Availability Wing beans are available from Florida during the summer months.

Current Facts A computerized Winged Bean Information and Documentation Center has actually been established by the Agricultural Information Bank for Asia.

Description/Taste Peculiar-looking for a legume, glossy bright green wing beans average about six to nine inches in length. Four equally spaced slightly ruffled fins or wings run the length of each pod, the apparent reason for its descriptive name. Light in weight and squarish in shape, wing beans are larger than common string beans. Starchier and meatier than string beans, the flavor is similar but somewhat blander. Combining the optimum characteristics of the green snap bean and the pea, the wing bean's flavor also reveals the tasty traits of soybeans, bean sprouts, potatoes, mushrooms and spinach. Because of all these vegetable virtues, scientists have dubbed it "a supermarket on a stalk".

Nutritional Value Nutritious wing beans offer an abundance of essential nutrients, including protein, complex carbohydrates, the B vitamins, calcium, iron and fiber. Low in sodium, one-half cup contains about 126 calories. Eating five daily servings of fruits and vegetables lowers the chances of cancer. A recent study found that eating nine or ten daily servings of fruits and vegetables, combined with three servings of low-fat dairy products, were effective in lowering blood pressure.

Applications Rather vague flavor-wise, wing beans are excellent seasoned with bold spices and herbs. They especially love hot and spicy, onion and garlicky and acid and sweet flavors. Add to stir-fries and tasty soups. Thick slices are ideal in wok braises. Boil rather than steam this bean. Boil whole as they easily fall apart if cut. Pair with cilantro, scallions and sesame oil. Dredge cooked beans in a sweet-sour sauce or oil and garlic. Marinate cooked beans in a boldly seasoned dressing; chill; serve as an unusual appetizer. Perfect for tempura. Serve with a dipping sauce flavored with soy sauce, sugar and grated ginger. Make wing bean pickles. To prepare, place beans in a water-filled sink; wash and drain. Cut straight across or on a slant; remove tip. When cooked and cooled, check string for tenderness; remove if tough. To store, tightly wrap in plastic; keep in the upper part of the refrigerator. For optimum quality, taste and texture, use promptly after purchase. These beans do not store well as they collapse and wilt within a few days, or less.

Ethnic/Cultural Info In Sri Lanka and southern India, pickling is the favorite use for the popular winged bean.

Geography/History Wing beans, sometimes called winged beans, are thought to be native to southern Europe and Africa and somehow journeyed to tropical Asia. Not yet a household word in the kitchens of America, this odd-looking bean has many culinary virtues. In spite of its lack of popularity in the United States, wing beans have been experiencing worldwide growth. Not produced commercially on a large scale, wing beans are grown in Papua New Guinea, Thailand, Cambodia, Burma, Laos, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, the Philippines and India. Growing on a vigorous climbing vine that doesn't mind high humidity, the plant is quite lovely and is often used as a decorative garden plant. All parts, including the shoots, seeds, flowers and tubers are edible. Loving life especially in nurturing tropical climates, the wing bean plant does adapt to several soil conditions and is somewhat drought tolerant. This typical tropical plant's best environment in moderate climates as it does not like very cold weather and is sensitive to frost. Filipino, Thai and East Indian cuisine especially favor its culinary personality. Other names include four-angle bean, princess bean, asparagus bean, goa bean, fava de cavalo, frijol alado, dólico de goa and dau rong.

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