By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
There are many types of food in the world that are not common in our region. Discovering these foods makes the culinary experience exciting. Take Adzuki beans, for instance. What are adzuki beans? These are ancient Asian legumes, commonly grown as a pulse or dried bean but also sometimes used fresh. They have been cultivated for centuries in China and Japan as well as other countries in the East.
Adzuki bean nutrition is off the charts with loads of fiber and vitamins. The beans are fairly easy to grow but require a long season, so start them indoors in short season climates. Growing adzuki beans in the home landscape will help you harvest the health benefits of these small beans and add some interest to the family dinner table through their diversity.
Legumes are good for the body and good for the landscape. This is due to their nitrogen fixing abilities which create healthy growing conditions for plants. Growing adzuki beans in your vegetable garden will harvest the soil friendly benefits while adding something new to the family table.
Adzuki beans are often served cooked with rice but may also be found in desserts due to the sweet flavor of the legumes. These versatile beans are easy to grow and well worth adding to your pantry.
Adzuki beans are small reddish-brown beans that grow inside long green pods. Pods turn lighter and paler in hue which signals it is time to harvest the seeds inside. The seeds have a scar along the side that protrudes in a ridge. The flesh of adzuki is creamy when cooked and has a sweet, nutty flavor. The plant itself grows 1 to 2 feet (0.5 m.) in height, producing yellow flowers followed by clusters of pods.
Beans may be dried or eaten fresh. Dried beans need to be soaked an hour before cooking. In Japan, the beans are cooked down into a sweet paste and used to fill dumplings, cakes, or sweet breads. They are also pureed with garlic, hot mustard, and ginger and used as a condiment.
Adzuki requires 120 days from sowing to harvest. In some climates that is not possible outdoors, so it is recommended that seeds be planted inside. Adzuki beans can fix nitrogen but they require inoculation with rhizobacteria.
The plants don’t tolerate transplanting well, so start seed in compostable containers (such as coir or peat) that will plant directly into the ground. Plant seeds an inch (2.5 cm.) deep and 4 inches (10 cm.) apart. Thin the beans to 18 inches (45.5 cm.) apart when plants are 2 inches (5 cm.) tall.
You can harvest the pods when they are green or wait until they turn tan and dry. Then hull the beans to harvest the seeds. The most important part of adzuki bean care and harvest is to provide well drained soil. These plants need consistent moisture but cannot abide boggy soils.
Young tender pods can be picked early and used much as you would use snap peas. The most common use is to wait until seed pods are splitting and harvest the dried seeds. It has been found that adzuki bean nutrition contains 25% protein. With such a high protein level and packed with nutrients (like folates, Vitamins B and A) and minerals (iron, calcium, manganese, and magnesium), these beans are nutritional powerhouses.
Another popular use of the beans is as sprouts. Use a sprouter or a strainer. Rinse the beans twice per day and place them in clean water each time. In about 24 hours, you will have fresh edible sprouts. Dried beans can be saved for up to a year.
Estimate 20 to 24 plants to feed a family of 4 for a season. This may sound like a lot of plants but the seeds are easy to keep for year around eating and the plants will enrich the soil when they are worked in at the end of the season. Adzuki can also be intercropped to save room and provide more crop diversity.
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Soak 1/3 to 1 cup of beans in cool water for 8-12 hours.
Drain off soak water. Do not ever soak again.
Rinse and Drain with cool water every 8-12 hours.
Bean Sprouts don't need light. Keep your Sprouter in a low light location.
Harvest on day 2 or 3, when most of the beans have short roots. Refrigerate your crop.
Adzuki Beans will pale as they swell with water. Before you end your soak, check them: If you see that on a lot of your beans, part of the bean (one end usually) is still as dark as it was before soaking, they may need a little more time to soak - to make sure they have taken up all the water they need. This is difficult to explain, but I will of course try. If that dark red is no more than 20% of the seed, consider it fully soaked. The seeds continue to take up water even after soaking, so they'll be fine. If more of the seed than 20% is still dark red, drain the soak water and add fresh water. Soak for a few hours more and check them. You'll be done soaking when the seeds are at least 80% pale. Of course, if you got your seed from us, we will tell you here if you need to soak them for more than 12 hours. We haven't had a lot of Adzukis that required such special treatment since the last millenium, so don't sweat it - if you are using Sproutpeople Adzukis.
In any case, we soak Adzukis for 12 hours. If we are in a hurry we'll use warmer water - 80-90° is a good starting point if you want to experiment with shorter soak periods, but be careful not to go too hot - it can cook your seeds in which case they will never sprout.
Adzukis also tend to have more hard seed than other seed types. If you buy your seed from us this is not much of a concern, but these are beans after all, so it is always good to check for hard seeds - as well as rocks (hey, these grow on farms! Dirt Happens!). If you buy Adzuki or other seeds elsewhere be sure to examine them after soaking to make sure there are no hard seeds (seeds that are as hard after soaking as before) . If there are - throw those (the hard ones) out (or better yet, compost them)! Hard Seeds are easy to spot as they are smaller than those that are swollen with water.
My family, especially Ayden love red bean with gula melaka dessert soup. I sometimes boiled it together with black glutinous rice. On other occasions, I’ll add glutinous rice balls into the red bean soup.
Red Bean Dessert
I cook this dessert at least once every week and have been buying organic red beans from the supermarket. One day, I decided to try growing them ourselves.
Growing red beans is extremely simple. All we had to do was throw some beans into the pot and watch them grow. They are ready for harvest 60 days later.
The flower buds started showing on Day 27.
By Day 29, I saw the first bloom.
Bean pods appear by Day 33.
By Day 60, they are ready for harvest.
They are relatively easy to grow with the least care needed. The only downside is we grew at least 10 pots (with at least 4 plants in each pot) of these red bean plants just to get the above harvest
It is very space consuming just to get these little red beans but looking at our harvest is really satisfying. Nothing beats having our own homegrown organic red beans for tea.
For the first time, I actually recorded the growth of what I am growing. Watch this video to see how we grow and gets to harvest organic red beans in just 60 days.
Check out the rest of my potted garden success:
Below discusses the health contributions of adzuki beans.
Adding minerals like copper , zinc , and magnesium into a diet delays the onset of “old age” and prevent osteoporosis. It enhances bone strength and prevents bone demineralization. Fortunately, these minerals are obtainable from adzuki beans. Thus, adzuki beans promote youth!
The beans’ high amount of B vitamins , specifically folic acid, can lower the risk of developing congenital disabilities in unborn babies. The lack of Folate can also give rise to neural tube defects. Adzuki beans contain a high amount of folate, which helps guarantee a healthy delivery.
Molybdenum is a unique mineral found in adzuki beans that come in high amounts. This specific trace mineral is also obtainable from foods. It also contributes to liver detoxification. A half serving of adzuki beans give 100% of the daily recommended molybdenum intake.
A lot of people in Asia and its neighboring countries benefit from adzuki beans and other bean varieties for losing weight. The protein and dietary fiber content satisfy the appetite and also provide satiation, without adding quite a significant amount of calories. There are only 150 calories to acquire from a one-half cup (115 grams) of adzuki beans. Meaning, obtaining a whole lot of nutritional benefits is achievable without gaining too much weight.
Adzuki beans have a significant amount of protein which is an essential element in a diet. It is especially beneficial for vegans who do not get protein from animal sources. Proteins are broken down into essential amino acids needed by the body to form new tissues, cells, and organs for both repair and growth. Foods like this bean can also give an energy boost because of its high protein content.
Adzuki beans like most bean types are rich in dietary fiber, which is also one of the critical components of digestive health. Fiber enhances peristaltic motion, transferring food through the gastrointestinal tract and implementing smooth intake of nutrients from food. Fiber is also beneficial in eliminating diarrhea , constipation, bloating, and even more severe conditions like colon cancer.
The dietary fiber, magnesium, potassium, and folate that adzuki beans possess all combine into a very efficient cardiovascular boost. Dietary fiber aids in balancing cholesterol levels, while potassium soothes blood vessels and increases blood flow. In turn, these beans contribute to lowering blood pressure and strain on the heart. It is also beneficial in reducing the chances of acquiring atherosclerosis, strokes, and heart attacks.
The dietary fiber found in adzuki beans has another purpose. It also helps in stimulating the activity of insulin receptors in the body. Thus, it guarantees the maintenance of healthy blood sugar levels. In turn, it effectively prevents the onset of diabetes or controls its symptoms. It helps to avoid those drops and spikes that are very harmful to diabetes patients.
According to animal studies , the protein that adzuki beans contain is capable of inhibiting intestinal α-glucosidases. By the way, α-glucosidases in the intestines are enzymes responsible for breaking down glycogen, starch, and other complex carbohydrates. Thus, taking these fantastic beans can help manage diabetes by inhibiting alpha-glucosidase.
Protein makes up muscles. Therefore, it is essential in maintaining and building muscle mass. Protein deficiency causes muscle loss. Doing some heavy lifting requires more protein. Combining an increased healthy intake of protein with a regular physical exercise is a smart way of getting the body into shape.
Adzuki beans are also a protein-rich kind of food. There are 17.3 grams of protein to gain from one cup of these beans. Thus, consuming it aids in building muscle mass.
Adzuki plants have similar soil needs to that of soybeans, with neutral to alkaline soil pH. When spring soil temperatures are 60 degrees or more, direct seed adzuki bean seeds about 1.5 inches deep with about ½ a foot in between each seed in your garden. There is a risk for rot if the soil is too damp and cold, adzuki beans are not frost tolerant. Adzuki beans that are planted in warmer soil will also germinate much more quickly, around 10-14 days.
Regularly weed the soil as the adzuki plants are emerging to encourage healthy growth. Once the adzuki have grown larger they can effectively out-compete the weeds and shade them out. Adzuki beans can be eaten fresh, harvested directly from the vine, or used for their dried beans. If being utilized for their dry beans, adzuki beans will be ready to harvest from 3 to 4 months after planting when the beans rattle in the pod. Each dried pod will contain 7-10 dried beans inside. The shelled and dried adzuki beans should be stored in a sealed container in a cool, dry area until you are ready to use them.
Traditionally, adzuki beans are used in Japanese desserts. The slight sweetness of adzuki combined with the pleasantly grainy texture they have when ground make adzuki perfectly suited for sweet bean paste, as filling for cakes, or flavoring ice cream. They can also be cooked and paired with rice for a complete plant protein, added to soups and curries, eaten as candied beans, or be the main ingredient for a bean salad.
The adzuki bean (Vigna angularis) has been grown for hundreds of years in East Asia. It is thought that the domesticated adzuki beans originated in China and then made its way to Japan, where it is used in a multitude of dishes and often written about in Japanese literature. Adzuki beans are also grown in China, near the Yangtze River Valley, and in Korea, the Philippines, New Zealand, Taiwan, India, and Thailand. The quality of the adzuki beans is of the utmost importance because they are processed very little before being added to various dishes.
Ground adzuki beans have even been used as part of Japanese women’s beauty routines for centuries. The ground beans would be placed in a silk bag and used as an exfoliant over the whole body. The manganese present in adzuki beans acts as a great antioxidant to curtail free radicals from pollution and other chemicals, resulting in healthy skin protection.
Adzuki beans have high levels of magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, and copper. Adzuki beans are rich in protein and fiber, both of which are necessary components of a healthy diet. Some find that adzuki beans are easier to digest than other legumes, so consider incorporating adzuki beans into your diet even if other beans pose a digestive challenge.
Adzuki beans need about 120 days from sowing to the time the seeds and pods are dry. They need cool nights for best production, but will not tolerate frosts and freezes. They should be planted in Florida gardens during traditional frost-free periods.
In South Florida, September through February is the best planting period, February through March in the rest of the state. When planted in September in North Florida, vigorous plants with 20 to 30 pods were obtained by mid-November.
Prepare the soil and plant very much as for green snap beans. Sow seeds ¾ to 1 inch deep, thinning the plants to stand about 2 to 3 inches apart in the row. Space rows 12 to 18 inches apart. Give ordinary care (no trellis is needed). Adzuki is said to be fairly drought resistant, although the soil moisture should be maintained at a consistent level.
The young, tender pods may be harvested for use as snap beans. However, they are very small at this stage and the seeds are just beginning to develop inside the pods. Pick every 5 or 6 days.
Adzuki beans are most useful as a dry bean. The ripe seeds contain 25% protein and are highly nutritious. The dry pods split open and scatter the seeds, so harvest the pods after the seeds are ripe but before they shatter. The entire plant with dry pods still attached may be pulled and stacked in a dry, well-ventilated place to dry completely (a week or two after harvest is usually sufficient). The dry shelled beans should be stored in a tightly sealed jar in the refrigerator.
Sprouts from adzuki beans are particularly nutty and tasty. Sprout as you would other beans such as mung and soy. Dried adzuki beans are said to require only a short soaking (1 hour) before cooking.
This document is HS549, one of a series of the Horticultural Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date April 1994. Revised August 2015. Reviewed October 2018. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.
James M. Stephens, professor emeritus, Horticultural Sciences Department UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.
The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.