The Q&A Archives: asparagus beans yellowing

Question: I planted asparagus beans this year for the first time. I love the taste! It's like the stalks of broccoli, but not as sweet. The problem I am having, however, is that the beans are only getting 12-14 inches long, then they seem to dry out and the seeds toughen and the skins become thin, yellowish-green, and bitter. Are they not getting enough water? Am I picking them too late? I thought they were supposed to get to be 3 feet long, only you should pick them around 2 ft. long, since they get tough after that. They are planted in full sun, have great fertile soil, and are trellissed. I sell them to the local vegetable market,and would like them to be longer. Also, are they like regular green beans that the more you pick, the more grow? What do you think could be wrong with my beans?

Answer: I think you are leaving them on the plant too long. They turn tough and fibery and the outer color changes when they are past the fresh eating stage. (Left later they can be used as you would southern peas.) Depending on the variety, they are usually picked between 65 to 80 days to harvest. Although they can potentially grow up to three feet long, it is really unusual to see them get that big. And for fresh beans, most are harvested at about a foot long and definitely before they begin to swell -- meaning start to show the bean seeds forming inside. A rule of thumb for tenderness is pick at a diameter of maybe 3/8 inch rather than going by length. Lack of water can also cause them to have thin, skinny tips while the first beans inside swell, and make them tough, but I don't think that matches your description. Picking them promptly should help them continue producing but again to some extent yield will depend on the specific variety you planted.

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