Snake beans

Snake bean vine Snake beans are a good value crop for the vege patch where summers are hot, and French beans may struggle or be attacked by birds. They are prolific croppers over a long period and 4 plants are probably sufficient to supply a family of 4. Ours were still cropping at the beginning of June this year. A popular ingredient in Asian dishes, they can be substituted for French beans in many recipes, and blanched, young beans can be added to salads.

Snake bean pods Snake beans can grow up to half a metre or longer but tend to become a little tough if allowed to grow to this length (i.e. the beans at the bottom of the photo). They are best eaten when 30 cm or so in length while seeds are small, and they are young and tender. Pods grow fast and should be picked every day, or every second day at least, to ensure that they are harvested at their best, and to keep the vines forming new pods.
Snake beans take up very little space in the garden as they are grown on a trellis in soil that has plenty of compost and some organic complete fertiliser added, which should keep the soil pH at an ideal level (6.5–7). In late spring, when soil temperature is at least 15 degrees Celsius, sow seeds in damp soil 1 cm deep and 30 cm apart. Water to settle soil after sowing. Do not water the soil again until seed leaves appear, then water regularly to ensure healthy growth. In tropical areas where summer rainfall is heavy, sow seeds in hills to improve drainage. Seeds germinate quickly, and vines can produce pods in 60 days in very hot weather.
Snake bean ripening Greenpatch Organic Seeds has two varieties of snake bean; one with black seeds that produces pods up to 45 cm and one with brown seeds than produces thin pods to 60 cm.
Allow a couple of pods to mature until they have yellowed and lost their ‘puffiness’ (see photo). Then continue the drying process indoors. De-pod seeds when pods are crisp.

5 thoughts on “Snake beans

  1. Hi how long can I harvest my beans for. Do I need to pull them out & start again every season. Thanks
    You haven’t said where you live, Karen, so I don’t know your climate conditions. Keep harvesting as long as they are producing good beans. Allow a few beans to mature past good eating, and save the seeds. When the plants look as though they have run out of nutrients, cut them down, dig them in, and sow the seeds in a different spot next year.

  2. I just ordered some on ebay. They are coming from Thailand.

    They are available locally, Stephen, from Greenpatch organic seeds, Eden seeds and Bunnings. Seed produced locally will come from plants that have done well in Australian conditions.

  3. Anyone in the Margaret River region of southwest wanting snake bean seeds
    can contact me.I have heaps of seed from last year and have already sprouted this year’s crop.25/10/17.

    Thanks, Kelvan. That’s very helpful. – Lyn

  4. How do I get the snake beans seed

    If you have a Bunnings near you, Mr Fothergill has snake bean seeds in his collection, although May is not the normal time to sow them in temperate parts of Australia.
    Otherwise, you can order them by mail from the following companies unless you are in WA or Tasmania, as some seeds are not allowed to be mailed to those states:

  5. Can you eat the seeds of snake bean like kidney beans for example?
    Most of the dried beans we eat are from the Phaseolus genus, Kidney, Navy and Cannelini, while Snake beans belong to the Vigna genus that includes Cowpea and Adzuki beans. Dried beans require considerable soaking and rinsing to remove the physic acid and make them more digestible, and then boiling to soften them and the Seed Savers’ Handbook states that Snake beans are best eaten young and lightly cooked as boiling makes them taste floury and gives these beans a bad name. – Lyn

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