Wing beans are lime green and elongated with a square shape and four feathery, winged accents running from tip to end like the tail of an arrow. The pods are straight or curved with a smooth and waxy surface. They can grow up to 30 centimeters long but are usually harvested at 10, and 15 centimeters, before the peas have fully developed. Wing beans are sweet, like many pea varieties, and offer an asparagus-like flavor and crunchy texture.
Wing beans are an excellent source of copper, iron, manganese, tryptophan, and the essential amino acid isoleucine. They are also rich in protein, fiber, complex carbohydrates, all of the essential B-complex vitamins, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, and potassium. The pods, leaves and roots all contain a similar nutrient makeup.
Wing beans are most often cooked. Young pods can be eaten raw in salads, sliced very thinly, or lightly blanched. They are prepared like French beans or snap peas by pinching off the ends and cutting into bite-sized sections. Use in stir-frys, sautés or add to soups and stews towards the end of the cooking process. The delicate pods pick up the bold flavors of chiles, garlic, and spices. Young pods can be pickled. Mature beans are halved, and their seeds prepared and eaten like soybeans. Dried seeds can be ground and used as a flour substitute. Store Wing beans in a bag or airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Wing beans are available in the late spring and through the fall months.