A specialty variety of soybean, edamame (Glycine max cultivars) is harvested when the seeds are only starting to complete the pod but before they are fully developed. Harvested pods cook briefly in salted boiling water, and beans are instantly shelled and eaten, used in recipes or frozen. Pods are not eaten. Beans have a sweet, nutty taste and a high nutritional value. Native to China and Japan, edamame, meaning “beans on branches,” was grown there for more than 2,000 years. Plants resemble bush beans and grow from just over a foot to 3 or 2 feet tall, depending on the variety.
Edamame, also known as green soybean, vegetable soybean and beer, needs warm temperatures and also at least a 65 day growing season to produce edible beans. There are many cultivars, the majority of them developed for growing in Asia. Edamame varieties suited for American residences are “Besweet 2020,” that is 30 inches tall; “Beer Buddy,” between 30 and 36 inches tall; “Butterbaby,” also called “Bush Shiratori;” “Butterbeans,” 24 to 30 inches high; “Early Hakucho,” and “Green Pearls,.” Both shorter varieties in 12 to 14 inches tall; and “Envy,” “Misono Green” and “Shironomai,” all at 24 inches.
New edamame beans are packed with valuable nutrients. Each 100 grams of beans, which can be about 3 ounces, contains about 125 calories, including 12 grams of protein, 3.5 grams of fat, and 13 grams of carbohydrate. Edamame, like dried soybeans, are rich in natural plant estrogens, and also include potassium, potassium, vitamin A and vitamin E. The immature green soybeans are easier to digest because complex carbohydrates called oligosaccharides haven’t yet developed.
Plant edamame seeds when all danger of frost has passed. Prolong the harvest season by planting cultivars with different maturation dates. Early varieties are “Early Hakucho” and “Green Pearls” in 65 days to maturation. “Beer Buddy,” “Butterbaby” and “Envy” produce fruit in 75 days. Later maturing varieties are “Tohya” in 80 days, “Misono Green” in 85 days and “Besweet” and “Butterbeans” that take 87 to 90 days. Plant seeds 1 inch deep and 3 inches apart in rows spaced 2 feet apart. Mulch plants with 3 inches of organic mulch when they’re 3 to 4 inches tall, keeping mulch away from plant stems. Fertilize plants once they start to flower. Water thoroughly during dry periods.
There’s a narrow window of about five days for picking beans at the right point of maturation. Beans must be filling from the pod and also be 80 to 90 percent increased but not completely mature. Pods must be dark green with no trace of yellow. Beans harvested at night have better taste than those harvested in the morning Edamame ought to be ready as soon as possible after picking for the best taste and nutrient value.
To eat edamame as a snack food, much as peanuts are consumed, put newly picked jars in salted boiling water for about ten minutes. After draining, push cooled beans from the pod and eat them. Japanese prefer them just as a finger food with beer. Beans may also be refrigerated or frozen after boiling. Whole pods may also be blanched for a minute in boiling salted water, then plunged in ice water to halt the cooking. Drain them and put them in recloseable plastic bags to freeze. Expand the bag in boiling water for 15 minutes if pods are frozen or 4 to 6 minutes if thawed, then hull the seeds and eat them. Besides beans, beans are stir fried, add soup, or used as a side dish vegetable, either alone or combined with other vegetables.