Edamame

The Asian sensation that is sweeping the nation is the soybeans you eat like peanuts.

By Erika Myers-Russo

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Edamame (pronounced "eh-dah-MAH-meh") are vegetable soybeans — that is, you pick them when they're green, pop them out of the pods and serve them as a side dish or eat them like peanuts, a crunchy snack you munch with a beer. Edamame are an excellent source of high-quality protein — the beans have all of the amino acids, including the 8 not produced in our bodies. Also high in dietary fiber, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin A and folate. And then there are isoflavones — the powerful plant compounds that have been linked to everything from decreased heart disease to alleviating the symptoms of menopause.

Growing Guide

  • Variety: If you live in an area with short or cool summers, choose a variety that matures in less than 90 days. In the Deep South, choose a variety with a later maturation date or consider planting edamame for a spring/fall crop.
  • Soil preference: Edamame tolerate a wide range of soils, but delay planting until soil temperatures reach at least 60°F. Extend your harvest with succession plantings made at weekly intervals.
  • Inoculation: To increase the plants' nitrogen fixation, treat soybeans at planting with Rhizobium japonicum inoculant, available through seed catalogs which sell edamame.
  • Spacing: Edamame are well-suited to dense plantings. Plant in wide rows and space 4-inch apart in all directions.
  • Watering: Keep soil consistently moist and avoid soil crusting until emergence, then water only when soil is dry.
  • Fertilizing: Edamame perform well with moderate soil fertility. Compost or a balanced organic fertilizer are good choices.
  • Cultivation: Control weeds around seedlings with light cultivation until leaves shade out competition.

Pest Watch
Edamame are largely pest-resistant, but if you have problems with Bean Beetles or Stinkbugs they can be controlled with floating row covers or predatory insects (parasitic wasps, nematodes, ladybugs, and lacewings).

Harvesting
Edamame have a narrow harvest window of 3-7 days. Pick when beans have filled in the pod and before the pod begins to yellow. Chill the beans for several hours and then blanch the pods in boiling water just until the color deepens. The beans can then be refrigerated or frozen for later use.

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