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Mung Bean Plant: Popular Asian Beans

Mung beans may not sound familiar to you, but you’ve probably had them if you’ve ever had bean sprouts. The bean sprouts you find at salad bars and in stir fry typically come from the mung bean plant in the United States.

Mung bean sprouts are one of the most common ways they’re eaten, but they can be utilized in other ways. They’re most popular in Asia, and they can be eaten savory or sweet, as sprouts or beans, and even as a paste.

While Americans in the United States may only know them as sprouts, you can grow mung beans yourself and learn all the delicious ways you can utilize every part of the plant. They grow similarly to many other beans such as green beans, so they aren’t difficult to care for. Let’s take a look at how to care for these plants so you can branch out and try something new.

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Quick Care Guide

Mung bean plant
The mung bean plant produces lovely legumes. Source: Dinesh Valke
Common Name(s)Mung bean, green gram, golden gram, moong, monggo, munggo, maash
Scientific NameVigna radiata
Days to Harvest100 days
LightFull sun
Water2-3 inches per week
SoilWell-drained sandy loam
FertilizerOptional, low nitrogen (5-10-10)
PestsAphids, bean beetles, bean weevils, mealybugs
DiseasesAnthracnose, bean blight, bean mosaic, bean rust

All About Mung Beans

Mung beans
Mung beans are popular for sprouting as well as other uses. Source: UnconventionalEmma

Vigna radiata, or the mung bean, has many names across the world. In international publications, you may see it listed as the green gram or golden gram. In Asian countries, you’re likely to see names such as moong, monggo, munggo, or maash.

The mung bean plant originated in India and has been used there since ancient times but is now popular in many Asian countries. Asia is responsible for growing most mung beans, but they’re also grown in Africa and South America. They’re also grown in the United States, with Oklahoma being the state that grows the most.

Mung bean plants are in the legume family and typically grow 2.5 feet (76 centimeters) tall, although some varieties can grow a bit taller. They grow pale yellow flowers at the top of the vine in clusters of up to fifteen. Yellowish-brown or black bean pods will develop from the flowers, which will be fuzzy when they’re mature. The seeds can be of different colors, including yellow, green, brown, or black. Like other legumes, mung beans produce their own nitrogen.

You can grow mung beans in a similar manner to other bush bean plants. The biggest difference is that the beans will stay on the plant longer than many other bean varieties. Growing mung beans requires patience, but the end product is so worth it! 

Not only can you eat the beans, but the leaves and root tubers are also edible. In fact, the entire plant can be consumed, although parts of it (like the pods themselves) are not as palatable as the beans. The leaves can be too fibrous to enjoy fresh, so they’re typically cooked or used for cattle forage as an animal protein source. The tubers are generally only eaten in times of desperation, but their creamy white interior makes them pleasing enough to cook and eat.

Planting Mung Beans

When to Plant

Mung beans take about three months to grow from seed to maturity, so planting toward the end of spring is ideal. May is often an appropriate time to sow once it reaches 65°F (18.3°C) and stays above it. These are a warm-season crop, and the larger seeds will struggle to germinate if it’s too cold.

If you want a continual harvest once they’ve matured, plant seeds every two weeks.

Where to Plant

Growing mung beans is pretty easy because the mung bean seeds can be planted almost anywhere. They’re suitable for planting in the ground, in raised beds, and in containers, as long as they can receive at least six hours of sunlight.

Mung bean seeds shouldn’t be planted in rocky or weedy areas. The soil should be smooth and easy for roots to go through. The soil needs a pH level of 6.2-7.2. Avoid planting mung beans in areas where it won’t be easy to amend the soil as needed.

How to Plant

Planting mung beans is simple and begins with adding 1-2 inches of compost to the soil. Since mung beans are nitrogen-fixing, they won’t require much nitrogen fertilizer. A few inches of composted organic matter that is nutrient-rich should be enough to feed the entire plant throughout its lifespan.

To start to grow mung beans, plant seeds one inch deep into the soil and two inches away from each other. The rows should be 30-36 inches apart. Add a bean inoculant into the hole or apply it to the seed directly. Inoculants are optional, but they help the beans create nitrogen more efficiently.

Mung beans prefer to be sown directly rather than transplanted, but it’s still possible to grow from transplants. Carefully place the transplants into holes that are big enough to fit the root ball. The transplants should have at least six inches between them.

Care

Mung bean flower
Mung bean flowers are distinct from other bean flowers. Source: Dinesh Valke

Let’s take a look at how to care for your growing mung beans so you can have a bountiful harvest in three months.

Sun and Temperature

Like most other beans, mung beans require full sun, which is at least six hours of direct light each day. As mentioned before, your growing mung beans are a warm-season crop and they’ll perform best in the right weather conditions.

The ideal USDA hardiness zones for mung beans are 10-12, but you can grow them in cooler regions as long as they stay within the ideal temperature range of 69-96°F (21-36°C) during its growing season. Mung beans can tolerate temperatures as high as 104°F (40°C) and as low as 46°F (8°C). They’re not frost-tolerant, so anything below that will cause damage or kill them.

Water and Humidity

You need water for growing mung beans, but fortunately, they have moderate drought tolerance to help you through those dry spells. A young mung bean will need more water than a mature plant.

When you water your established and growing mung beans, water at the base of the plant to prevent moisture on the leaves. Wet leaves can attract fungal disease. Soaker hoses are an excellent choice here.

Vigna radiata should receive 2-3 inches of water per week, which will even out to watering a few times each week. You don’t have to water as often in cool weather or in the rainy season. Make sure the soil stays moist, but avoid soggy soil at all costs.

Soil

Mung beans prefer sandy loam and loamy soil conditions that are rich with plenty of organic matter such as composted plant waste or manures. It shouldn’t have large rocks or weeds. The soil should be well-draining, so water can’t puddle. 

The ideal pH range for mung beans is 6.2-7.2. 

Fertilizing

When it comes to fertilizing, you shouldn’t have to do so if you added good compost to the soil. But, if your growing mung beans could use a boost, use something that’s low in nitrogen. A 5-10-10 fertilizer will work well. 

Nitrogen aids with growing leaves, so add just a bit at the beginning for a little boost. Too much will cause the plant to focus on foliage production rather than the mung beans, which is why we suggest using as little nitrogen as possible once the vines are established.

Pruning

Pruning mung beans is unnecessary. You can prune the plants to remove dying or damaged leaves, but other than that, the plants don’t require it.

Propagation

Mung beans are propagated only by seed. Soak the seeds in warm water for up to twelve hours. Then plant the seeds, and you’ll have mung bean sprouts soon.

Harvesting and Storing

Mung pods
Hairy pods form on the mung bean plant. Source: Dinesh Valke

Legumes are perhaps one of the most appreciated crop types because they have a long shelf life and make the perfect hot meal on a cold day. If you don’t want to eat all your mung beans at the end of summer, you can store them for up to a few years. No rush!

Harvesting

You’ll know your mung beans are ready to harvest when pods are about 5 inches (12 centimeters) long. They should be a yellowish-brown or black color, and the pods will be fuzzy. If the pods are still green, they’re not ready yet.

Not every mung bean will be ready simultaneously, but you can harvest when about 60% of them are fully mature. To harvest, pull up the entire vine and hang it upside down in a cool, dry place. A garage or shed will be the perfect place.

Place newspapers or fabric underneath the vine to catch the mung beans as they fall off. Since some of the pods are still maturing, it should take a few weeks for this process to be complete.

Storing

To store fresh mung beans without drying them, place them in an airtight container and keep them for 2-3 days. Keep a clean paper towel in the container to soak up moisture. Excess moisture will cause the beans to go bad quickly.

To store them as a dry bean, once all the pods are dried after hanging upside down (as described previously), remove the beans from the pods and lay them out on paper towels or newspapers to dry out completely.

Once they’re completely dry, store them in a plastic bag or airtight container like a tight-fitting glass canister. They should last for a few years, allowing you to save for winter or as an emergency food supply.

You can store dry beans in the freezer to make them last even longer. This will prevent an insect infestation from occurring.

Troubleshooting

Mung beans sprouting
Bean sprouts from the mung bean are a common food. Source: wabisabi2015

Mung beans may be easy to grow, but that doesn’t mean they’re free from problems. There are only a few pests and diseases to look out for, and prevention will be the best way to battle them.

Growing Problems

One problem you may have with mung beans is too much nitrogen. Beans of any kind may fail to set flowers if they receive too much nitrogen when they’re young. Another sign is if vines have too many leaves for their stems. The leaves become too heavy and cause the stems to break. If your beans seem to have too much nitrogen, add several inches of compost to round out the nutrients it’s receiving. 

Pests

Aphids and mealybugs are two pests that suck out the sap of plants that may make their home on your mung beans. As they feed, leaves will become distorted and may shrivel up. Covering your vines with row covers is a good preventative measure for most plants. Ladybugs will eat aphids, or use neem oil, insecticidal soap, or pyrethrin to kill both aphids and mealybugs.

Another couple of pests are bean beetles and bean weevils, both of which will eat leaves. You can use pyrethrin to eliminate the insect infestation, but you’ll need to spray the growing mung beans regularly to catch each life cycle. Preventative measures you can take include crop rotation, removing dead matter and other debris at the end of the season, and avoiding overwatering.

Diseases

Bean rust is a fungal disease that can infect any type of bean. It causes reddish-brown patches with yellow halos, deformed bean pods, and wilted foliage. Wet conditions, including humid weather, can cause this to spread. 

Another fungal disease is anthracnose, which is common in cool, wet spring weather. Remove all the infected parts of the plant and treat with neem oil or copper fungicide.

The bean mosaic viruses are spread by aphids. Each will have different symptoms, such as yellowing leaves, black spots, or stunted growth. These viruses can’t be cured, and you’ll need to remove and dispose of your beans. Avoid composting these to prevent further spread of the virus.

Bean blight can be spread by beetles, whiteflies, or wet leaves. A copper-based fungicide can prevent the spread.

Frequently Asked Questions

Mung bean field
A mung bean field just before harvest. Source: bonarae

Q: How long does it take for mung beans to grow?

A: It takes about three months (100 days) for a mung bean to reach maturity.

Q: Can you eat mung bean plant?

A: You can eat the beans, leaves, and tubers, although the leaves and tubers should be cooked first since they can be unpleasant to eat.

Q: Where can mung beans be grown?

A: Mung beans need to be grown in a sunny location that receives at least six hours of direct sun. They can be grown in containers, raised beds, or directly in the ground.


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