What is a Dragon Tongue Bean?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A dragon tongue bean is a flavorful, juicy bean which can be picked and used like a snap bean or allowed to mature into a shell bean. In either case, the beans have a delicate and beany flavor which some consumers greatly enjoy. When fresh and in season, dragon tongue beans can sometimes be found in the produce section of a market, or through a greengrocer or farmers' market. The dried beans are available year round along with other dried legumes like lentils.

Dragon tongue beans.
Dragon tongue beans.

When used as a snap bean like green beans, the dragon tongue bean can be used in a wide range of dishes. It is usually lightly blanched or sauteed to preserve the fresh, crisp flavor. The beans also look somewhat unusual, with a white to creamy yellow background mottled with rich purple streaks and spots. When cooked, the purple spots on the dragon tongue bean tend to disappear. Since dragon tongue beans are stringless, they are very easy to prepare, requiring only a quick wash and a trim before use.

The flag flown by the Netherlands, where dragon tongue beans orignated.
The flag flown by the Netherlands, where dragon tongue beans orignated.

The dried beans can be used like other beans in soups, burritos, and other dishes, either paired with other beans or eaten alone. They should be stored in a cool dry place until they are ready to be used, and will generally keep for up to one year. Just like other shell beans, they should be rinsed before use to remove detritus, and soaking will greatly reduce the cooking time.

The dragon tongue bean was first raised in the Netherlands, when farmers began to experiment with bean varietals looking for a sweet, waxy bean. The snap beans take around two months to mature, while the shell beans require an extra month or two to fully develop and dry on the vine. People who want to grow dragon tongue beans should plan on finding a sunny spot in the garden and working the soil with lots of compost and mulch to make it congenial for beans. Space the plants well apart so that they have room to grow, and keep them moist but not saturated in water.

The snap beans can be harvested when they approach the length of a hand, and the shell beans can simply be allowed to dry on the vine before harvesting. With a large plot of dragon tongue beans, it is possible to enjoy the sweet snap beans in the summer months while also reserving bean pods to allow dried beans to develop. In either case, beans make great nitrogen fixers, and will help repair the soil after a demanding crop has been planted. When all the crop has been harvested, mulch the dragon tongue bean plants back into the soil to prepare it for the next crop.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Can the shelled beans be kept in the freezer?


Dragon tongue beans actually have a lot of nutritional value too.

They are very high in iron and folate, so are a good choice for pregnant women.

They also have a lot of vitamin B, and even a little potassium.

However, if they are not cooked, then dragon tongue beans contain a toxin. It's easily neutralized by cooking, but can cause intestinal distress if eaten raw.


There are so many good recipes out there for dragon tongue beans.

My favorite thing to do with them is to take about 2 cups of dragon tongue beans, some olive oil and crushed garlic, dried basil and a little salt and pepper.

Start your pan by sautéing the garlic, then add in your beans. Keep them on the stove for about five minutes, then add in your seasonings, remove, and serve.

They're really good, and the garlic just compliments the bean taste so nicely. Best of all, this recipe is really quick and super easy to make.


I love dragon tongue beans -- they're so pretty, and I think they add so much color to a garden.

Once you see a picture of them you can understand why they're called dragon tongues though -- all that purple striping and the knobbly shape really do look like a tongue.

I always look forward to my dragon tongue beans showing up in the fall -- secretly, they're my favorite vegetable in the garden.


I am new to vegetable gardening and was told that my Dragon Tongue beans that I planted to be used only as dried beans, would need to have some picked early and used as fresh beans in order for the plants to continue to produce. It was suggested that I wait until the end of the season to pick those that I want to be dried beans. I am afraid that there may not be enough to make it worthwhile if I pick some now. Some pods are about 6-7 inches long now while others are less mature. My instinct tells me to leave them alone so that there will be a sizable harvest of dried beans. Am I correct?

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