Chinese Bean (Vigna radiata L.)

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Chinese bean (also known as edamame) is a small legume pod that has been widely grown in Asia for over 1,000 years. It can be eaten raw or cooked and served with salads, dips, soups and stir-fries. The two most popular varieties of Chinese bean are the green mottled type and white stringless variety, which have superior taste when compared to other types. These beans come from either fresh harvest or frozen seed. Freshly harvested seeds are preferred by many chefs because they are sweeter and richer in flavour than those produced through cultivation. They contain more protein and less oil content than their cultivated counterparts. There are also numerous benefits associated with consumption of this vegetable. This article explores some key aspects of growing Chinese bean.

Chinese Bean

Origin

This plant originated from India where it was first domesticated between 5,000 BC to 3,500 BC. Since then, this crop spread eastwards along with human civilisation and became one of the oldest food crops in China. In fact, the earliest written records of its existence date back to 604 AD during the Tang dynasty. Today, Vigna Radiata is mostly grown in tropical regions such as South America, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Madagascar, Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand. However, due to increasing demand on land space, production is now shifting towards temperate areas like Europe.

Nutritional value 

Vegetables play an important role in providing nutrients required for maintaining good health. They provide energy sources that help maintain our metabolic functions. Thus, eating vegetables may reduce risk factors related to cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, obesity, hypertension etc. Vegetable intake helps lower cholesterol levels and reduces the risks of developing cancerous tumours. Therefore, growing your own vegetables at home not only saves money but also provides you with nutritional benefit. Growing them yourself will give you control over what goes into them. It’s easy, fun and very rewarding! I would recommend starting out with something simple like Chinese Bean.

Location

The location plays a major role regarding growth and productivity of Chinese bean. Before we discuss how to select the best site for sowing, let us review the various locations suitable for growing Chinese bean. Generally speaking, this plant prefers warm climates having high humidity level throughout the year. According to researchers, growing this plant outdoors under natural sunlight gives better results than artificial light source does. But if you live near sea level or in low lying lands, full sun exposure might not be possible all year round.

Chinese Bean
Chinese Bean

Soil and Substrates

These days, organic matter mixed with well drained soils are considered ideal for germination and healthy development of Chinese bean plants. Soils containing lots of clay particles tend to become compacted easily creating poor drainage. On the contrary, sandy loams allow water to drain faster. Ideally, the texture of the soil should match the nature of the plant being grown. For example, deep rooting sugar beet requires heavy clays whereas shallow rooting lettuce grows well in soft silty loam. Composts made up of decomposed leaves, grasses, peat moss, bark, straw, wood chips, spent mushroom compost and other similar materials work great for promoting nutrient uptake. Additionally, adding fertilizers and pesticides to the soil can create unwanted side effects. Many studies suggest using vermiculite instead of ordinary potting mix. Its porous structure allows aeration thus improving overall nutrition of the plant. A layer of mulch surrounding the base of the plant prevents evaporation of moisture. Finally, don’t forget to keep the hole moist yet firm so that plant doesn’t dry out completely.

Nutrient Requirements

It’s essential to understand basic information regarding nutrient requirements of Chinese bean. Though Chinese bean is classified as ‘low-calorie’ diet food, it still contains carbohydrates and proteins. Carbohydrates serve as main storage form of energy. Proteins, lipids, vitamins etc., comprise the building blocks of cells. As discussed earlier, growing Chinese bean requires sunshine and warm temperature. Sunlight aids photosynthesis process which converts carbon dioxide into glucose molecules. Temperature influences enzyme activities responsible for conversion of starch and sucrose into sugars. Accordingly, Chinese bean produces higher yields when grown in sunny environment under optimum temperature range. Depending upon variety, optimal temperature ranges vary slightly. Some varieties require minimum night time temperature ranging from 9 degree Celsius to 11 degree Celsius while others prefer 13 degree Celsius for maximum vegetative stage. Optimum day length varies from 10 hours to 12 hours depending upon the cultivars. Day length greater than 14 hours tends to produce flowering heads resulting in reduced yield. Sufficient amount of nitrogen serves as vital component of chlorophyll molecule.

Sowing

Selecting proper sowings dates is crucial to achieve desired output. Seedlings are sown after reaching four true leaves stage. Seeds should be soaked overnight in distilled water. After soaking, remove extra moisture by blotting gently with absorbent material. Place seeds evenly spaced approximately 2 inches apart. Cover with fine mesh fabric to retain heat.

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