Long beans, bitter melon make a sweet garden

Ray Soriano is a retired pathologist from Thomas Jefferson University, so he has lots of time to fiddle with things in his garden in Southampton, Burlington County. This is long bean or Asian bean or yard long bean that Ray cuts up and uses in one of his signature Filipino stews. He's got lots of it growing in containers and in the garden. They can grow to 36 inches or so!

You may have guessed that Ray's a good cook, as is his wife Edith, a retired R.N. She's also from the Philippines, which is probably the most significant thing I can tell you about this couple. Their culture and heritage, expressed in what's growing in the garden and bubbling on the stove, is extremely important to their identity, and it's fun when they shared that with me and photographer Akira Suwa this week. Got me to thinking about what our gardens say about our DNA. Would anyone guess, from looking at yours, what your heritage is?


Besides the long beans, Ray grows bitter melon, sweet potato, and purple hyacinth bean, known as batao in Tagalog. He actually uses those rosy-purple hyacinth beans and pods in stews, which surprised me. People have told me they're poisonous. (Guess not!)

Story about Ray and his garden (and kitchen) is coming up next week. I can't wait to see it laid out on the page and philly.com web site. It'll remind me of this sweet New Jersey garden and the delicious Filipino-style meal Akira and I enjoyed with Ray and Edith.