Sigarilyas or winged beans, goa beans, princess pea or four angled bean, no matter how you call it, are good looking beans. They have a peculiar shape, hence the name winged beans. The Tagalog word sigarilyas is actually derived from the Spanish word “cigarillo” which means cigarette. My guess it somehow evolved to sigarilyas because the bean resemble a cigar when the bean is matured and brown in color. Anyways, being in Spanish rule for three centuries, most of our Tagalog words were derived from Spanish language.
The vegetable itself grows in a vine all summer long. The flowers resembles any bean flowers, (sigarilyas belongs to the family of legumes) white in color with a tinge of purple. The bean that emerges from the flower is bright, waxy green in color and has that typical wing-like tip on each four sides. You have to pick the fruits when it is 3-4 inches long, otherwise it will mature and become tough and fibrous. The mature fruit turns brown in color and when you open the pods the seeds will look like soy beans but darker in color and the shells are very hard indeed.
It is delicious sautéed as a side dish or stir-fried with other vegetables. Sigarilyas has a crunchy texture if not overcooked. My Mom put it in sour soup we call “sinigang”, the sour taste comes from the tamarind fruit we call “sampalok. It is one of the most important condiments we used in the Filipino kitchen. It is also a delicious fruit when ripe, we make candies and preserved jam out of it as we will discuss in the tamarind page.
Sigarilyas is easy to propagate from seeds but the seeds has hard shell that you need to soak them overnight to help in the germination process. The experts also scrape the shells which they call scarifying to make germination faster. It is best to direct-seed this plant where you plan it to grow. Prepare the soil and amend with lots of organic matter (composted manure or organic compost) plus some horticultural sand for good drainage. The sigarilyas plant like to grow in moist soil but not soggy and needs to be situated in full sun.
My research about the nutritional value of this bean is astounding. I did not know how valuable this bean with regards to nutrition and also as a food crop problem solver. I was amazed to learn about its protein content and also that every part is edible. We only eat the young pods in my hometown. I would really include this plant in my vegetable garden and enjoy eating the beans every time as much as possible. Here in Hawaii, you can expect the old bean plant to come back to life because it is a perennial plant, but in the mainland, it is treated as an annual because of the winter weather. Winged bean can not tolerate frost.
Winged beans do not store very well in the refrigerator so you must use them right away after picking.