A Guide to Growing and Harvesting Edamame

John Navazio shares his guide for growing and harvesting edamame, includes planting information, best varieties and times for harvesting.

| June/July 2002

Learn about growing and harvesting edamame in the garden.

The joys of edamame (or you can call them green soybeans).

It isn't often we discover a truly new crop for our vegetable gardens. Asians have been enjoying edamame ("ed-ah-mah-may"), sometimes called "green vegetable soybeans," for many years. But this nutritious and delicious crop is still unknown to most American gardeners. As soon as you taste the sweet, nutty, melt-in-your-mouth flavor of edamame, I predict you, too, will become a devotee of this wholesome, easy-to-grow vegetable.

Here's what you need to know about growing and harvesting edamame. Edamame soybeans are different varieties than the types grown as a dry field crop for making tofu, soybean oil or other soy products. Edamame varieties are harvested while they are still green, before the pods dry, much like shelling peas. I first tried edamame at a Japanese restaurant, where it was served as an appetizer in the traditional style. The beans came to our table in a large bowl, piping hot, looking exquisite in their emerald green pods. I was with two Japanese friends, who taught me the proper etiquette for eating edamame from the pod. They showed me how to hold the pod lengthways near my lips and then pinch the outer edge of the pod, pressing the beans against the inner seam to split it so the beans popped neatly into my mouth. Eating them from the shell in a common bowl is a time-honored tradition that enhances the pleasures of social interactions with friends. You can also shell them before you serve them, or add them to stir-fry or other dishes.

There's another excellent reason to give edamame a try this summer. Many of us are eating more soy foods than ever before as we learn about the health benefits of this nutritious food. Aside from being a great source of quality protein and vitamin E, soy foods contain isoflavones, which seem to play a role in reducing the risk of heart attack, osteoporosis, breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Growing Edamame (Green Soybeans)

Edamame does well in many different soil types, but make sure the spot is well drained with plenty of mature compost worked in. Soybeans are a warm-season crop, so plant the seeds when it's time to transplant tomatoes, or when the soil is at least 60 degrees. Sow eight to 10 seeds per foot in the row, at a depth of 1 to 1 1/2 inches. Edamame plants can get rather bushy, so space your rows at least 2 to 2 1/2 feet apart. All soybeans, including edamame, are legumes that host beneficial nitrogen-fixing bacteria on their roots. To take advantage of this natural nitrogen production, you can dust your seeds before planting with a bacterial inoculant for soybeans (available from most seed catalogs that offer edamame.)

6/21/2018 1:54:55 PM

Where can I get seeds on Vancouver Island?

8/14/2009 9:50:40 AM

A 2009 update, the popular Japanese Edamame variety 'Beer Friend' is available from Kitazawa Seed Co. big beans and they taste like sweet corn and boiled peanuts combined!

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