Being able to grow Snake Beans (also known as Yard long Beans) successfully year after year, saving the seeds, then having the skills to preserve the collected harvest to create a Shelf Stable product for the pantry is why these beans are top on our list of Resilient Food Plants to grow.
After completing a Permaculture Design Course, we realized that the climbing Snake Beans were best suited to our climate and situation.
Every year we look forward to and enjoy the bounty that these beans supply us with. The benefits they give for both the garden and the pantry are well worth a prime spot in our Self Sufficient Back Yard.
9 Facts on Growing Snake Beans
- Snake Beans like hot humid weather
- They like to climb : vertical growing allows better air flow
- Prolific yielding plants
- Local insects just love the flowers
- Self Sowing
- Seeds are easy to save for next season
- Many plants will fit into a small footprint
- Taste great fresh
- Many ways to preserve for long shelf life
Do Snake Beans like Tropical Heat and Humidity?
Yes, Snake beans love the heat and humidity, this was the hardest learning curve for us originally was deciding what beans to grow in the Hot Wet Tropics.
As the weather here is so hot and humid, the bean varieties we had been planting just couldn’t cope. The plants would look promising, add a little rain, sunshine and “BAMM” humidity would kick in and knock those plants for six.
It didn’t take us long to realize Temperate loving beans in the Tropics are a very hit and miss venture. Once we switched permanently to Snake Beans it was a game changer.
When we first trialed Snake Beans, we planted them in our winter growing time frame. The results were not great. We planted them in different areas of the yard hoping to get a better understanding of these beans.
Hardly any came up so we decided to wait for the following year. However, turns out we didn’t have to wait that long.
Cue humidity and heat building to the wet. The first rains came, and with them we noticed tiny bean tendrils winding their way up the pool fence. We watched and were taught one of our first lessons with these beans.
Snake Beans know when its time to grow. Let them be.
How to grow Snake Beans in a Back Yard : choose a vertical position
Snake Beans are climbers and they take this job seriously.
They will want to be on the highest trellis, tree or structure within grabbing distance. Be aware of this trait, give them something to climb and just stand back.
As I mentioned earlier, our first crop was from randomly placed seeds in spots along the Pool fence. It was soon apparent that these plants wanted to go higher still. After reaching the top of the fence. they latched onto the surrounding plants and kept going up.
We soon had to build a pergola style roof out of bamboo poles to give them more support. This gave the tendrils a place to spread and then flower; they would then drop their beans through the gaps, and we could harvest from underneath.
We now knew the best way to grow these plants. This crop was the first of our many “bumper” crops.
We have now grown these Snake Beans vertically in all manner of ways.
Vertical structures for growing Snake Beans
- Specially built structure
- Over existing Buildings/Structures
- Using solid Fence Panel
- Along Fence Lines
- Garden Trellises
- Bean Poles
- Garden beds
- Raised Garden Beds
- Over trees and other plants
As we now use Raised Garden Beds primarily for growing our crops, we find growing Snake Beans in these beds has a couple of advantages for us.
As soon as our winter crops are finished for the season, we simply plant heaps of Snake Bean seeds down each side of the beds.
We do not need to fertilize the soil or amend in any way, this is a continuation from our winter season growing.
Beans cope quite well on slightly depleted soil. It is our way of crop rotation and has worked quite well so far.
The plants’ tendrils will wind their way up the panels and spread out forming a canopy over the frame. The flowers will appear on the ends of these weaving tendrils.
Small beans will begin to form and then the beans will either drop though the cage gaps in the supporting frame or will hang on and around making for easy picking.
This is now our favorite way to grow Snake Beans, Both for ease of growing and harvesting.
How to harvest Snake Beans and Preserve for Long Term Storage
Like all bean varieties, the more you pick the beans, the more flowers are produced, the more beans there are to pick. We will continue picking from these plants until they are completely spent, or the end of season bugs move in.
The spent plants will then be pulled, chopped and dug into the garden bed soil or given to the chickens to mulch down for the next revolving crop in the Garden beds. This article “Making organic soil for raised garden beds” explains the whole process for you.
Allowing some of the Bean pods to stay on the plants till big, fat and yellow then allowing to dry out will give you some seeds for next year.
We have also discovered ( through trial and error) that tossing a few pods on the ground and just leaving them till next year, they will self germinate when ready. Nature’s clock is wonderful.
Now is the time when it gets really busy in the kitchen.
When a quick walk around pick can bring in at least 1.5 kilos, and we do this morning and afternoon, there are a lot of Kilos of Snake Beans to put-up. We process these in different ways to give variety and diversity.
- Eating Fresh Everyday
- Canning : many different ways
- Pickling : with other Veg or by themselves
- Freezing : after Blanching in meal sized bags
- Dehydrating then vacuum sealing
As we do these again I will link posts of how we do these
Being Self Sufficient for most of our Fruit and Veg, means our goal is to replace with like or similar. This is why we no longer purchase beans from the supermarkets and have now grown Snake Beans ourselves for many years with great success.
Living where we live, we have many power outages due to cyclones and severe tropical storms and having shelf stable food in the pantry is paramount.
This plant is so generous in it’s abundance that it is one of our top plants in our Resilient Food Plants list that we grow in order to enjoy and to have a Self Sufficient Home Life.
This article was written by Tui Blanch. She is Co-owner of TheTropicalHomestead.com and has well over 20yrs experience in preserving and storing food.