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Dragon’s Tongue Beans Throughout the Season

Debra Redalia


When I first moved here to Sonoma Count, California, I got excited about heirloom beans I found at the farmer’s market.

I started researching heirloom beans and experimenting with all the varieties I could buy, but this year I learned something new about beans that I had never known before.

You are probably familiar with “green” beans, like the standard “green beans” that have an edible pod and small immature beans inside. These are called “green beans” or “string beans” and there are half a dozen types that are now commonly available in upscale groceries and farmer’s markets. These never grow into full size dry beans.

Then there are “shelling beans” which are the fully mature beans that are still in their fresh pods See Fresh Morrowfat Shelling Beans. You shell these yourself and then cook the beans as a fresh vegetable. You don’t have to soak them overnight, but they will cook up to something akin to a cooked dry bean in 30-25 minutes. I’ve found marrowfat and cranberry beans in their shelling stage and at this time of year look out for them at roadside farmsteads and the farmer’s markets.

This week I had a new experience.

I purchased some dragon’s tongue beans thinking they were shelling beans, but when I tried to shell them, there were only small beans inside like a green bean.

Puzzled, I did some research and found that dragon’s tongue beans can be eaten as green beans, as shelling beans, and as dry beans.

I read that when you cook a green dragon’s tongue bean, all the markings disappear, so I’m eating them raw in salads, and I think I will make some pickles too.

I’m going to keep following these beans throughout the season and see how they mature.

I like them as green beans. They have a sweeter taste and look like autumn with their red marks. I think dragon tongue beans and tomatoes would make a good salad. I’m going to try that.