The winged bean is a tropical vine producing large highly nutritious winged pods. All parts of this uniquely flavoured plant are eaten from the pods to the flowers, leaves, stems and roots. Pods are best picked when young and added to stir-fries. The flowers may also be added to dishes and sometimes used to add colour to rice or pastries. Young leaves are picked and prepared as for many leafy vegetables like spinach. The roots can be used in a similar fashion to potatoes and much more nutritious. Dried seeds are also ground to make a form of flour.
Due to their tropical nature wing beans are very sensitive to cool temperatures and germinate best between 18 - 25 degrees C. For areas other than the true tropics it is recommended sowing be made in early summer to improve germination. This is particularly important in all highland districts that experience cool night temperatures which often results in seeds rotting in cold wet soil.
Try sowing in pots indoors for difficult areas. Scarification is also recommended as winged bean seed can have a hard skin which can inhibit germination by preventing moisture entering the seed.
Winged beans tend to be light sensitive and crop best during the shorter light hours of autumn and winter, with reduced crops over the summer months. For equatorial regions this is likely to be during the northern and southern hemisphere solstices. This light sensitivity can cause problems in frosty climates as plants may not able to produce a crop before being cut down by winter frost.