Growing Dragon Tongue Beans & Plant Profile

Dragon tongue wax beans, sometimes called Dragon’s tongue beans, are large, deliciously tender, stringless, and flavorful!

Able to get up to 7″ long without getting all tough and leathery, these beans have dramatic purple striping on yellow pods that stands out among the greenery. This is a bean that’s hard to miss, come harvest-time!

Dragon Tongue Bean Pair
Dragon’s tongue beans have attractive purple coloring on yellow-green pods that really stand out in your garden!

This delicious bean is a heavy bearer under the right conditions, happily yielding up a plentiful harvest. They can be used in any number of ways, from stir-fries, to canning, or even fresh snacking. Not a fan of eating wax beans in these ways? Then let them mature further on the plant for a while – eventually, they’ll become shelling beans!

Conveniently, these beans grow in a bush habit, rather than growing up supports, like pole beans. This makes them very easy to tuck around the garden, with no worries about having to set up trellises or poles.

Sadly, that dramatic coloring doesn’t last under the strain of cooking. The purple pigment will fade out when the beans are cooked, leaving an unassuming pale yellow color behind.

Fortunately, dragon tongue beans more than make up for it in the form of delicious flavor and a wonderful texture, making them a worthy addition to the garden.

dragon tongue seedlings just out of ground
Newly emerged dragon tongue beans sprouts, in the garden.

About Dragon Tongue Beans:

  • Plant: Heirloom Wax Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris)
  • Color: Plant foliage is green, with purple-striped yellow pods.
  • Days to Maturity: ~60 days from planting for harvesting pods
  • Frost-hardy: No
  • Lifespan: Annual
  • When to plant: Direct-sow after all chance of frost has completely passed. (Soak seeds overnight before planting for faster germination.)
  • Edible: Yes
  • Part Eaten: Pods/Beans (pods may be eaten as a green bean, or beans allowed to mature and used as a shelling/dry bean)
  • Requires support: No
dragon tongue older seedling
a young Dragon Tongue Bean plant

Where to Buy

Dragon tongue beans are a much more common heirloom than some other kinds – it’s very easy to find them from a number of sources!

We usually get our dragon tongue beans from Seed Savers Exchange, but have also purchased seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. We’ve been very happy with the results we’ve gotten from both sources.

Other reputable online seed sellers, such as Johnny’s also offer dragon tongue beans as part of their stock. Your own favorite seed vendors may also offer these beans, or if they don’t, a quick online search will swiftly bring you more options to choose from!

dragon tongue bean spacing
space Dragon Tongue beans in garden rows, about 2 inches apart

How to Grow

Grow these beans as you would any other types of bush bean. After all risk of frost has past, sow beans in a location with direct sun and soil with good drainage 2″ apart and 1″ deep. If you are planting in rows, then space the rows 3-4 ft. apart.

You may want to soak the seeds overnight before sowing to get a headstart on germination. This is optional, but will help to speed the process.

After sowing, water well. Keep evenly moist until germination occurs, which will usually take around 1-2 weeks. Warmer weather and soil will result in swifter germination.

Dragon Tongue Bean Flower
Behind this lovely flower, you can see bean beetle damage on these plants that weren’t protected by row covers – protect your plants from this bean pest!

Other Care

Keep a sharp eye out for pests – bean beetles will tear apart a dragon tongue plant as greedily as any other type of bean. Keeping the plants covered with row covers help to shield the plants from this voracious pest. If you see any of the beetles or their eggs and/or their larvae on your plants, hand-pick them off immediately.

row of dragon tongue bean
Setting up the hoops for the row cover- these beans, which went all the way to harvest covered by a row cover, had a much easier time with the bean beetles than the uncovered row we had nearby.

Once your plants begin producing beans, you can keep them producing by continually harvesting from them as pods mature. They can last a surprisingly long time!

Harvesting & Using Dragon Tongue Beans

Harvesting

Harvest the pods after they’ve formed and grown and still are mostly flat due to immature beans within, but before the beans inside the pods develop enough to make the pods bulge. When the beans begin to develop, they make the pods become tougher and leathery, losing that crisp sweetness that dragon tongue managed to hold onto up to this point.

comparison of front and back of dragon tongue beans purple and yellow green coloring
The front (shown on the left) of Dragon Tongue Beans have more purple coloring than the backs (shown on the right), which are more yellow to yellow-green.

The beans will not all be ready to harvest all at once. They produce steadily, however, and once your beans start producing you might want to make a point of going out and checking for ready-to-pick beans every other day.

If you’re trying to save up enough beans to, say, can them, then they can be kept in a covered container in the refrigerator for a few days.

As for shelling beans, leave the pods on the plants until the beans are fully mature, and the pods have dried. Collect the dried pods and shell out the beans. Just like with eating dragon tongue beans in their green-bean-like stage, you’ll likely want to check for ready beans every other day or so.

Using

Before using these beans for any recipes, you’ll want to snap their ends off. Ripe, fresh beans will snap just like green beans! You’ll also likely want to snap each bean in at least halves, if not fourths.

basket of dragon tongues bean
A late-season crop of dragon-tongue beans.

Once you have your snapped beans, you can use them for whatever you so please! Have a favorite recipe that uses green beans? Try substituting wax beans instead! Or you can toss a handful into a stir fry, or a pot roast. Green bean salad is another option. And, of course, you can always cook up a mess of home-canned wax beans in a pot with a bit of bacon, all buttery-warm flavor and tender-texture…

The fresh beans are often described as crisp and juicy. Canned beans will have a softer texture when cooked, so if you prefer your beans crisp, consider freezing them, rather than canning, to preserve them.

Dragon tongue beans being used as shelling beans should be treated as a dry bean. Add and use them in recipes that call for dry beans.

dragon tongue bean seeds
The shelled, dried beans are also edible.

Preserving & Storing Dragon Tongue Beans

Dried shelling beans may be stored in glass jars or other suitable storage containers in a cool, dark, dry location for around a year.

As for the fresh beans, they can be pressure canned for storage just as you would for regular green beans. (10 lbs of pressure for 20 minutes for pints, 25 minutes for quart jars.) Canned dragon tongue beans are delicious and if properly pressure canned, sealed, and kept in suitable storage conditions (cool, dry, and dark), will last for up to a year.

Alternatively, you can freeze them! Simply snap and blanch the beans for three minutes in boiling water. Cool, drain, and pack in freezer-safe bags or containers, keeping them frozen until you desire to use them. Beans frozen in this way will be good for 10-12 months, but should be discarded if there are signs of freezer burn or spoiling.

Dragon tongue wax beans are one of our favorite flavors for mealtime, and most reliable producers for our pantry. We hope you get a chance to try them out in your garden too!

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