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A dragon tongue bean is a flavorful, juicy bean which can be picked and used like a snap bean or allowed to mature into a shell bean. In either case, the beans have a delicate and beany flavor which some consumers greatly enjoy. When fresh and in season, dragon tongue beans can sometimes be found in the produce section of a market, or through a greengrocer or farmers' market. The dried beans are available year round along with other dried legumes like lentils.
When used as a snap bean like green beans, the dragon tongue bean can be used in a wide range of dishes. It is usually lightly blanched or sauteed to preserve the fresh, crisp flavor. The beans also look somewhat unusual, with a white to creamy yellow background mottled with rich purple streaks and spots. When cooked, the purple spots on the dragon tongue bean tend to disappear. Since dragon tongue beans are stringless, they are very easy to prepare, requiring only a quick wash and a trim before use.
The dried beans can be used like other beans in soups, burritos, and other dishes, either paired with other beans or eaten alone. They should be stored in a cool dry place until they are ready to be used, and will generally keep for up to one year. Just like other shell beans, they should be rinsed before use to remove detritus, and soaking will greatly reduce the cooking time.
The dragon tongue bean was first raised in the Netherlands, when farmers began to experiment with bean varietals looking for a sweet, waxy bean. The snap beans take around two months to mature, while the shell beans require an extra month or two to fully develop and dry on the vine. People who want to grow dragon tongue beans should plan on finding a sunny spot in the garden and working the soil with lots of compost and mulch to make it congenial for beans. Space the plants well apart so that they have room to grow, and keep them moist but not saturated in water.
The snap beans can be harvested when they approach the length of a hand, and the shell beans can simply be allowed to dry on the vine before harvesting. With a large plot of dragon tongue beans, it is possible to enjoy the sweet snap beans in the summer months while also reserving bean pods to allow dried beans to develop. In either case, beans make great nitrogen fixers, and will help repair the soil after a demanding crop has been planted. When all the crop has been harvested, mulch the dragon tongue bean plants back into the soil to prepare it for the next crop.