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Sticks and Stones…

Sydney Jordan Brown
Latest posts by Sydney Jordan Brown (see all)

While sticks and stones may break our bones, Glycine max, may strengthen them.

Edamame (derived from the Japanese words eda, meaning “stems or branches,” and mame, meaning “beans”) soybeans belong to the Fabaceae family. The name “edamame” roughly translates to “beans on branches” since the entire plants are harvested with immature pods intact.

In China they’re also known as Mao Dou, meaning “fur peas” because of their fuzzy pods. 

Immature edamame soybeans have been consumed for thousands of years (native to China, later introduced to Japan around 1400 BC) as a protein-rich vegetable food source.

In Japan, edamame is commonly served with beer, like serving beer and peanuts here in the states. Although never proven, edamame was rumored to prevent hangovers because it contains the amino acid methionine. It has been a longtime meat alternative in Asian regions. It wasn’t until the 1980s — after Shogun (a popular 1960’s TV miniseries) – depicted it with beer and saki — that edamame became popular in the US.  We didn’t know what we were missing.

We’re fortunate edamame came to the US. It is a complete-protein vegetable, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids. It is also high in fiber, potassium, magnesium, and iron. The FDA has endorsed its many health benefits, including lowering blood cholesterol, reducing coronary disease, diabetes and more.

Aside from its incredible health benefits, edamame’s taste is delightfully addictive. Their flavor is enhanced by “umami”, often called the “fifth taste” (the others are sweet, sour, salty and bitter).  Umami has a long-lasting, tongue-coating, meaty taste that often causes salivation.  There’s nothing quite like edamame.

Although its flavor is stronger in soy-based fermented foods such as miso, tempe, shoyu and natto, properly prepared edamame has the same chewy (al dente) quality.

So why cultivate them?  Although readily available frozen, you’ll rarely find them fresh.  There’s nothing tastier than those harvested from your own garden.

Edamame plants grow 1’ to 3’ high and generally do not require staking. As with most legumes, they’re also supreme nitrogen fixers for feeding the soil.

Sow indoors (one seed per cell in six packs filled with moistened potting soil) to get a head start on harvestable crops.  Since day length is critical to flowering and production of beans, select varieties with a shorter length of time to maturity.

Once sprouted in about 1 to 2 weeks, leave seedlings beneath lights until frost danger has passed. Acclimate for about a week outdoors before you plant them about 6” apart in rows 12” apart. Mulch generously and water regularly as they’re not drought tolerant.

After 3” to 5” furry pods fill out with 2 to 3 plump beans in late summer, it’s time to harvest them before the beans mature and get tough. This can be achieved two ways:  Pull out the entire plant which will feed you with its beans or cut plant stems at the soil’s surface so white nitrogen-fixing root-nodules can nourish the soil.

Once your “beans on branches” are harvested, remove the pods to dump in simmering water or steam them for 5 to 8 minutes.  Squeeze pods to release beans that are ready to pop in your mouth.  Delicious!  So why not start some soon?



Encyclopedia Britannica

Specialty Produce

Old Farmer’s Almanac


Seed Sources:

Victory Seed Company

Pinetree Garden Seeds

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

All have short season edamame seed including Tankuro, and Envy.



Edamame Hummus

1 cup cooked edamame soybeans

2/3 cup frozen petite green peas, thawed

8 oz organic tofu (firm style)

4 large cloves garlic, peeled

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Juice and zest from one organic lime

1 teaspoon green Tabasco sauce

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Put all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process by pulsing on and off.  Use spatula to push mixture down then continue pulsing until mixture is pureed.

Makes about 2 cups

Keep in refrigerator for about 1 week.  Great on tortilla chips, crackers, bread, sandwich or wrap filling, topping for eggs, and fish.



Edamame in their pods can be refrigerated for 2 wks.  For longer storage, boil or steam, pop from pods and freeze.