Snake beans

This page has information about growing snake beans at home in the Northern Territory (NT).

About snake beans

Names: snake bean, long bean, yard-long bean, asparagus bean, vigna unguiculata ssp. sesquipedalis (leguminosae).

Origin: while native to East and South-east Asia, the snake bean probably originated in China.

Distribution: the snake bean is found in tropical and sub-tropical climates around the world. 

Australian distribution: snake beans are mainly grown around Darwin in the NT and in central and north Queensland.

Description

The snake bean is a tall climbing plant. It is an annual plant, meaning it will complete its life cycle and die in less than a year. The stems are square and usually smooth. 

The bean pods are between 30cm and 120cm long, green and thin. They become tight and start to bend when ready for picking.

Preferred climate and soil

Snake beans thrive in warm, humid climates with consistent rain. They do not like frost. Snake beans need to be watered during dry spells. They can grow during the Wet Season if the soil is well drained.

If heavy rain or waterlogging is not an issue then snake beans can grow in most types of soil, including sands and heavy clay. 

They can tolerate slightly acidic soils and prefer a soil pH between 5.5 and 7.5.

Varieties

There are many types of snake beans available and the variety should be chosen to suit the area where they are grown.

Propagation

Snake beans do best in the NT when planted as a seed into slightly damp and warm soil. Plant one or two seeds in each planting hole. 

Do not water until they germinate, normally about three to five days. If waterlogging is expected, the planting bed should be mounded. Plant in single rows about 3m apart and encourage onto trellises.

Snake beans will benefit from extra organic matter added before planting.

Make sure you keep the soil moisture high.

Pests and diseases

There are several pests and diseases that affect snake beans, including rusts, mildews, viruses, fungal diseases, root knot nematodes, aphids, cutworms, bean flies and mites. 

Fruit season

Snake beans can be harvested two weeks after flowering. This is generally 8 to 10 weeks after sowing.

Harvest

Bean pods are normally picked when the outline of the seeds are just visible on the outside of the pods. It is best to remove the pods before they get hard and swollen. 

Picking should be done at least twice a week and more often in very hot climates. 

Storage

Snake beans will last up to four weeks if stored between 2 and 4 degrees Celsius at high humidity.

Eating

Young snake bean pods are a stable vegetable in many Asian countries. They can be cooked with rice, added to soup or used fresh in salads.

Last updated: 27 June 2017