Thursday, March 17, 2011

Dragon Langerie (Dragon Tongue) Bush Beans: Easy To Grow from Seed Heirloom Favorite #5

I'm always interested in hearing about gardeners' favorite varieties of vegetables, herbs, and flowers to grow from seed, so I thought I'd start sharing some of mine.

Previous posts include:

You'll find links to lots more of my favorite things to grow at the bottom of this post. And I hope you'll share your favorite kinds of beans to grow in the comments.

Dragon Langerie (aka Dragon Tongue) bush beans in the kitchen garden
Dragon Langerie beans in my kitchen garden.

Realization of the Day:
I currently have 14 packets of bean seeds in my stash—and I haven't even placed this year's seed orders yet.

Since one of those packets is Dragon Langerie beans, I'll probably just skip that section of the seed catalogs this time around. Maybe.

I did a major sort through and organization of all my seeds the other day, and while it was a smaller job than last time (see the comments sections of that post for lots of seed organizing and storing tips), I still ended up with a quart size bag packed with seeds I again left in the magazine free box at the library—and it definitely felt good.

Seed catalogs specialize in seductive descriptions; how else can they make you go from I'm just going to order a few packets this year to Grand Total: $93.00 in under 60 minutes?

When I moved from urban California to rural Missouri 17 years ago, my garden went from about 75 square feet to 10,000. I went a little crazy crazy ordering seeds, and within a couple of years I was growing over 170 different types of heirloom vegetables, herbs, and flowers. I've cut back a lot since then.

Trying new vegetable varieties to see what works best—and, more importantly, tastes best—in your garden can be a lot of fun. And while I can be as adventurous as the next gardener, when I find something I love, I tend to latch onto it with both garden gloved hands. With beans, that means my beloved Dragon Langeries.

I'm sure it was the tempting description in the Pinetree Garden Seeds catalog that first piqued my interest back in 1995 or 1996 (what—you think I kept better gardening records back then?), but it's the harvests that keep me planting them again and again. They're listed in the catalog under Yellow Bush Beans, and everything it says about them is true:

Dragon Langerie (#1001; 57 days): This Dutch wax bean is unique. It has very pretty purple stripes mottled over creamy yellow pods. Both the yield and the flavor of the flat, 5" long bean are remarkably good. The combination of unusual appearance and excellent eating qualities make for a delicious conversation piece. There are few varieties in the catalog that produce more compliments than this one. One ounce packet $1.75.

During all the years I've grown them, these beans have never let me down. The yields really are incredible, and the beans themselves are gorgeous. I don't actually know what they taste or look like cooked (purple bush beans, for example often turn green while cooking) because the only way I ever eat them is raw. They have lots of flavor and a wonderful crunch.

I like to dip them into my Easy Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing for a quick and healthy snack, and they will instantly upgrade any crudité platter from coach to first class.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, a wonderful family owned company located here in Missouri, sells a variety they call Dragon Tongue, which from their photo and description, appears to be the same thing:

Dragon Tongue (#BN126): This famous Dutch heirloom bean has an incomparable flavor. The tender and superbly delicious 7" pods are yellow with amazing purple streaks! Also makes a tasty shelled bean. Popular with chefs and gourmets. Compact plants set high yields. Packet (40 to 60 seeds) $2.75.

I've never tried them as a shell bean, but one of these days I should. As for the size, I'd say mine range from 5 to 7 inches, depending on when I pick them. Not only are these nice big beans easy to pick, but, like all non-green beans, they're also easy to see, which makes harvesting a breeze.

My packet says to plant the seeds 1 inch deep after the danger of frost has passed (starting bean seeds indoors is not recommended) and space plants 2 inches apart. I usually space them a little farther apart, and I space the rows about a foot apart.

According to The Vegetable Gardener's Bible (a really great book), bush beans get along with just about all vegetables except members of the onion family, so they can go almost anywhere in the garden and be followed by just about anything.

Good companions include beets, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, chard, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, leeks, marigold, parsnips, pea potatoes, radishes, rosemary, strawberries, and sunflowers. Bad companions are basil, fennel, kohlrabi, and the onion family.

Our official frost date is April 15th, and we often have frost later than that since our farm is tucked down in a little valley, so I won't be planting any beans in my raised garden beds until the end of April. I was so proud of myself one year for getting my bean seeds into the ground on March 22nd, only to have all the seedlings freeze to death a few weeks later when it dropped down into the low 20s.

If cool temps threaten your crop, draping them with
floating row cover (which gives you about 5 degrees of protection) and/or old bedsheets can often help.

I also have a few types of favorite green bush beans I've been growing for many years, but those are for another post. In the meantime, what varieties of beans do you like to grow?

More posts about some of my favorite things to grow:

©, the greening up (Happy St. Patrick's Day!) foodie farm blog where it's supposed to be in the 70s for the next week, which makes it feel as if spring has already ended before it even began. Weird.


  1. I am so glad to see this post! I saw these beans in Horticulture Mag last fall, but have been undecided about them. Now I'll definitely have to give them a try! THANKS!!

  2. Those beans look amazing. I will have to try them next year. This year all of bean space is being devoted to Turkey Craw beans. They taste absolutely amazing and are able to be canned easily.

  3. OOh, we love beans. I'm growing them for the first time this year and they have been a standout favourite - sweet, juicy and so pretty

  4. I am so excited to see this! I just got my seed packets in the mail, dragon tongue included. I have high hopes for this year!

  5. My favorite pole bean last year was the rattlesnake bean from Baker Heirloom Seeds. It grows 18 feet tall and I needed something that would cover my garden entrance arbor. And best of all it has great flavor!

  6. Masai beans from Pinetree are my current faves. They stay young and tender, even if you get busy and neglect them for a few days! I will definitely add the Dragon beans to my order next year though. :)

  7. I really like flageolet beans and runner beans for dry beans. Last year was the first year I started keeping track of the vegetable varieties that I grow online. If I really like them, or if I really dislike them, I usually write a short post about it. I hope to have many more reviews this year!

  8. These look neat! I'm growing vermont cranberry beans this year with the hope of drying them.

  9. This year I'm growing Contender, Provider, Kentucky Wonder, and Dragon Tongue. They just sprouted and are getting big already!

  10. Soooo glad to see you posting more often in your kitchen garden blog. You really do rock. Susan, my all time favorite bean is a French heirloom pole bean called Emerite. I found it in Renee Shepherd's sexy veg catalog and have loved it ever since. (Still miss Shepherd's Seeds catalog.) It has a beautiful lavender flower, tall gorgeous green leaves, perfect for planting on teepees, and the blackest shiniest seeds I've seen. Taste is unparalleled, pick when pencil thick, stringless, HIGH yielding over whole season. A veg garden is not complete to me without Emerite. Very easy to save seeds to share and use year after year. Thanks for asking. Your little striper is very pretty too! Happy Spring!


March 2013 update: My apologies for the inconvenience - I know word verification is a pain - but I've had to turn it on to help stop the ridiculous number of anonymous spam comments I've been getting every day. Thanks for your understanding.

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Your feedback is greatly appreciated, and I especially love to hear about what's going on in your own garden. I know, too, that other readers also delight in reading about your garden successes, failures, helpful tips, and lessons learned. Feel free to leave comments on older posts!

I try my best to answer all questions, but sometimes it takes me a few days to get to them. And sometimes, I'm sorry to say, they fall through the cracks, and for that I sincerely apologize.

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