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Red Beans in Your Garden

To many old-time gardeners, the term "red beans" is a synonym for kidney beans. Red beans might also refer to the oriental red bean, sometimes called yard-long beans. However, there is also a different type of that is known as a red bean. All are a little different and require different growing or harvesting techniques.

The True Red Bean

This is a smaller bean than most other dried beans. Oval-shaped, they have red skin and a more delicate flavor than kidney beans. The texture when cooked is also softer than kidney beans. Sometimes called small red beans, these are popular in Caribbean and Cajun dishes such as red beans and rice. The bean is a bush type that comes to maturity in 60 to 90 days.

Kidney Beans

Perhaps the best-known of the various red beans – this is the classic for chili and bean salads. They get their name from the kidney shape of the bean seed. They may be dark red or lighter – almost pink. Both have a firm texture when cooked. The beans are used only as dried beans, so maturity is later – at least 90 and sometimes as long as 120 days.

Red Yard-Long Beans

This bean has a number of nicknames: red asparagus beans, Chinese long beans and red noodle beans, to name a few. A well-known variety in southern China, these beans are an unusual purple-red color, although the bean turns green when cooked. Very vigorous and heat tolerant, they must be grown on a trellis. Beans can grow up to 22 inches long. Average maturity runs 50 to 80 days.

Red Bean Recipes

Each type of red bean can actually be used in any of the recipes below, but the classic type of bean is indicated:

  • Kidney beans – chili, three bean salad, New Orleans-style beans, curried kidney beans, burritos.
  • Small red beans – Cajun red beans and rice, Cuban-style red beans, Puerto Rican-style red beans.
  • Yard-long beans – sauteed beans with herbs and garlic, stir-fries, soy-glazed beans.

About Cooking Red Beans

Kidney beans and small red beans are harvested when dry. Soak them overnight (at least twice as much water as beans) and then change the water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for six to eight hours. Kidney beans must be cooked to eliminate a toxin that can cause gastrointestinal distress. Long beans are a type of green bean and need only a short cooking time.

Growing Red Beans

All of these beans need typical growing conditions and management. Full sun is best for growth and flowering. Fertile, well-drained soil is required, but it should not have too much nitrogen. Give them a minimum of one inch of water each week. Yard long beans need a trellis; the others are bush beans.

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