Perhaps you've seen this vegetable at Asian grocery stores or at farmer's markets. These long bundles of green (or purple!) pods are usually gathered together with a rubber band. Usually called Chinese long beans, they also go by asparagus bean or snake bean.
Long beans are prominent in many South, East, and Southeast Asian cuisines, where they are cooked in a variety of ways. Long beans are a type of cowpea and grow on a climbing vine. The pods grow in pairs and can reach three feet in length. When picked young and tender, they are eaten raw; the longer ones are frequently cooked in stir-fries and curries. Long beans are highly nutritious and contain good things such as protein, vitamins A & C, iron, and potassium. The taste is somewhat similar to the typical green bean.
Some long bean recipes to try:
Chinese Long Beans with Cracked Black Pepper - Food & Wine
Szechuan Long Beans - RecipeZaar
Stir-Fried Pork with Long Beans - Gourmet
Long Bean Curry - Spice India
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(Image: Kathryn Hill)