The gouda bean is a native of China, Malaysia and India's lowland tropics. This bean is an annual plant that can be grown in the tropics on a trellis, usually a bamboo structure, so that the fruit can hang down and be easily picked. The fine hairy flowers open at night with a very sweet smell. The bean grows fast; it can reach a length of 1 to 2 metres. In some countries, they tie a small stone on the end of the bean to cause it to grow straight, as they can be very bendy.
It is best to pick them at 60 cm long, as the young beans are tender to eat. The bean is cylindrical green with white streaks up and down, with the older beans being red on the skin and the seed inside is very hard with a red spongy flesh around the seed. These should be used only for collecting seed for next season.
Fertilise seedling with a complete fertiliser when planted out at 20 - 30 cm high and water regularly, harvest should start in about 12 weeks, when flowers set. Keep a good fertiliser program up of small amounts of a complete fertiliser, and you will have the plant producing beans for 3 - 5 months. Best time for planting out is after the wet season (you may ask when this is; it is usually March).
You can use the gouda bean by cutting it into strips and steaming as a green, but it is best curried in a dish. See a recipe for Snake Gourd Curry in the Recipe section.
DATE: July 1996
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