Long beans on sale in a Bangkok market
These curious legumes are also known as yard-long beans or snake beans, while in Thai they're tua fak yao, and they have to be in the running for one of the more unlikely vegetables. At more than a foot long, they are quite preposterous looking. The pencil-thin beans really can grow to a yard long, but are usually picked and sold when they are approaching a foot and a half. Long beans are a common ingredient in stir-fries, and also served raw with hot and spicy foods, especially chili dips. Like cucumbers, long beans have a strong cooling effect when you've eaten a bit too much chili. Aside from their length, long beans look and taste just like fresh green beans. This makes it easy to substitute French beans or similar if you can't get the real thing. However, never use canned or frozen green beans. They must be fresh. I often see long beans growing on fences along country lanes around the north. They make a great, as well as edible, privacy screen for country homes.