Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Edamame - Fresh Shell Soy Beans

Edamame or Green Soy Beans
Anyone who drives through Ontario in the summer has seen the endless fields of soybeans interspersed with the equally endless fields of corn. Neither of those are for direct consumption by people, but are either components of much more processed foods or, more likely, animal feed. It's actually rather hard to find soy beans being grown in Ontario to be eaten as soy beans. They are, however, very popular as a vegetable ( and snack food) in Japan, and they can be ordered in any of the many sushi restaurants that have popped up here in the last decade or two under the name edamame. They are all imported I am sure; I have to wonder why. We can certainly grow them here, although the varieties to be used as edamame are not the same as the field soy beans. Actually, interest in growing them is increasing and research is being done on the best varieties to grow here.

We tried growing our own this year (and last year, when we had even less success). For something that grows all over southern Ontario, we had a bit of a hard time getting them to germinate. I don't think they love our sandy, acidic soil. However, the ones that germinated grew well enough, and produced a good bunch of hairy little pods each. Like most beans, they abhor cold soil and so we did not plant ours until the beginning of June. They are determinate plants, so it's best to plant both early and later varieties, or to do several plantings of a week or two apart. They freeze very well, so you may also wish to harvest your crop all at once for processing.

It's important to pick them just at the right time. If you pick them too soon, the beans will not have filled out properly. However, if they sit long enough for the pods to start turning yellow, they will be tough and overmature. You probably have less than a week to get them at their peak, so watch them carefully once they are close. The plants will only reach about 18" to 24" in height, much like other bush beans. A few sticks in the bed may help keep them upright, but they are not twiners. The ripe beans look like a cross between a lima bean and a pea, and they taste a bit like they could a cross between them as well. The texture is firmer than either, and the flavour has a nutty hint.

The simplest way to serve them - and the one found in all those sushi restaurants - is to boil them in their pods. The boiled pods are pulled through the teeth, so that the beans stay in the mouth and the tough pods are then discarded. They can be served hot or cold, but are generally sprinkled with a little coarse salt. They can also be shelled and used in soups, salads, casseroles, etc. We boiled ours for 5 minutes, then froze them. When we want to serve them, we will drop the pods into boiling water again for 5 minutes. If you are going to eat them fresh, you should boil them for the full 10 minutes, or even for 15.

We grew the varieties "Envy" and "Beer Friend"; two of the more common of the handful of varieties presently sold in Canada as seed. I can't say we noticed much difference between them.


Angie said...

Thanks for the info! I wasn't sure before how to prepare them. Going to try them soon!

Jennifer and Jaclyn said...

I love edamame! Especially with sea salt. SO good!

CallieK said...

I grow a type of soybean called 'butterbeans' and they are sold as a container variety. Last summer I planted 9 seeds in a single bucket as directed and got nine lovely plants and enough edamame for one snack. this yea I planted a similar number right in the ground like any bush bean and got a bumper crop!
But unlike yours, my harvest lasted all summer. Starting in July I picked a few handfuls when they were still slightly immature- we ate those fresh from the pod and used a lot of them in pasta dishes, both hot and cold. All through Aug I picked them in bunches and blanched and froze them. I finally ripped out the plants and dried the remainder in early Sept. I'm not exactly sure what I'll do with the dried ones- save the mfor soup beans or treat them like a navy bean and slow bake them with a tasty sauce. I'll let you know how they turn out!

One of Ottawa's Real Foodies said...

Wow. I just found your blog today. I just love it!!

Tebasile said...

We had the 'beer friend' this week in our CSA Share. Thanks for the info. I'm wondering, if you can make soymilk with these when they are dried?

Ferdzy said...

Tebasile, I guess you could IF what you mean by dried is that the beans have matured on the plant until they are dry, as with other varieties of soybeans used for soymilk.

The ones you have received now, I'm assuming as green (that is fresh eating) beans, no. You could dry them out but they would be dry fresh beans, if you follow me. They would taste green and grassy and I doubt they would work for soy milk.

I hope that answers your question!

Tebasile said...

Your answer was very helpful.Thank you Ferdzy.

jacob said...

we grew 14 acres of edamame on our farm this year with success for fresh and frozen markets in he gta. if you have any questions drop me an email.

Anonymous said...

My parents are immigrants from Japan and they've been growing edamame in their backyard ever year for over 30 years now. I think they got the seeds from my grandmother.

You're bang on about the eating season being short. Eating edamame has also meant the end of summer to me because that's when they're usually ready to eat. I still kind of find it weird to see them available in Japanese restaurants when it's not summer.

Re: dried beans - my parents save them to plant the next year. Just make sure mice, etc. don't get to them before then!