An ode to edamame: my homegrown, protein-rich popcorn replacement

May 10 |

BEANSI do not care what you say; the BEST snack food in the world is edamame. Green, healthy, savory, salty — steamed soybeans have the popability of potato chips, and it's so easy to drop a ton of money on frozen packs of them at the grocery.

I broke free of the frozen food aisle a couple years ago when I planted my first rows of soybeans. Last year, I broke 20 pounds of pods come harvest time — I'm hooked. Here is what I love about the amazingly snackable bean.

They are so easy to grow (in Iowa)

I bought a one pound packet of Envy in 2011, didn't even get through the whole pack, and grew over 20 pounds of of the stuff. Even though last summer was abnormally hot and dry in these parts, the beans didn't need the special attention of some of my other crops. They grew and grew and produced and ripened happily.

If you're interested in growing your own, they're a pretty hardy crop — generally happy in zones three through 11.

Beans are a simple DIY snack for later

After I harvest my beans, I blanch them for a 30 seconds in just-coming-off-boiling water, then quench the heat in a bowl of ice to stop the maturation process. After I tuck a few beans in a baggie and pop it in the freezer, I am DONE! Then a few months later I can pull out a bag, boil the beans for five minutes, and snack away.

They improve my soil

I'm a chemical-free gardener — less because I'm against dumping chemicals on the ground (though I am), and more because I find my plants grow best when they're in a healthy ecosystem full of bugs and birds and organic matter. To top it off, most of my garden plots lost their topsoil when our house's previous owners built an addition nearby — so the dirt is less loam, more clay. To help bring it back around to a rich, crumbly, well-drained soil full of earthworms, I use compost and nitrogen fixers like soybeans, and the difference they've made in the last 18 months is amazing!

Beans make MONDO green compost matter

Effective compost piles have a decent mix of green (living/fresh) and brown (dried out/dead) plant matter. 'Round Rockethaus, green stuff is harder to come by than dead leaves, sticks, and grass clippings. Except when edamame harvest is in full swing: I'm harvesting a small part of the plant before tossing the stalks, leaves, and discarded pods onto the pile. And that 20 pounds of beans left me a TON of green matter.

Edamame is a high-class appetizer

I fully milk the wow-factor of serving guests home-grown soybeans. It's a dish found in only a few restaurants, and many guests are completely unfamiliar with the little bean treat. And I get to be all, "Please enjoy this offering from my garden. It's organic, frozen directly after harvest, and last year's vintage was especially good."

Do you feel compelled to write an ode to a vegetable? Share it with us, and it may run on Offbeat Home!

  1. we've just discovered the virtues of edamame. We had it in a restaurant (flat top grill, this place rocks hard!) We enjoyed it, but thought they were overcharging us for what is essentially a very simple thing. So we went out and bought a big ole bag of individual microwave-able pouches (Yay Sam's club) and I serve em as an alternate veggie side (we are severely limited on the veggie frontier since my man has his lap band surgery, they're too hard for him to "get down" no worries with edamame though!) It makes a great side with fish, steak, burgers, just about anything! I will try it as a snack! And now you've started me thinking about trying to grow some…even though I have a black thumb, and live in a location where everything I plant gets eaten by wildlife!

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  2. Ooooh I <3 edamame! Definitely putting it on my list of crops for next year's garden (this year's gardening endeavors were called on account of baby due in the middle of growing/harvesting season). :)

    But I'm curious – you mentioned flash-freezing your veggies. How does one go about doing that, as opposed to just regular everyday freezing?

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  3. I bought a packet of edamame seeds after you mentioned it a few weeks ago. I'm planting them this weekend (I live in the Pacific NW…the rule is plant nothing in the ground until after Mother's Day) and really hope they do well. We are planting a big veggie garden this year and I have all my seeds, but I'm having a hard time figuring out what to plant where. Do you have any good resources for garden planning? Is that even a thing?

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  4. You've officially made me jealous of your garden. I think I'm going to emulate you and grow a few soybeans of my own this year!

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    • Haaaaaaaa SCORE. How's your planting going? (I am SO behind!)

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  5. Yes. More odes to veggies, please! I am trying to expand my vegetable repertoire, and eventually grow them. Articles like this might help me find the willpower to buy a new veggie to eat and then grow if someone out there can tell me how easy and delicious it is. ^_^

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    • Bridget, I've got one word for you "jicama"

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    • I'd suggest patty pan summer squashes and delictica winter squashes.

      My husband isn't big on veggies, but enjoys both.

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  6. Does anyone know if these can be grown inside? On a small scale like a plant pot obviously but I have no garden and I love edamame.

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  7. Can you tell me more about how you prepare or serve it? When I've tried edamame straight before I've found it a bit bland.

    On the other hand, though, I recently made edamame hummus that was TASTY! Cooked edamame, garlic, tahini (not too much!), cumin, coriander, cilantro, and salt. Soo yummy with some chips.

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    • I boil for 5-7 minutes, then salt with sea salt. It's bland without salt, but with it: perfect.

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  8. AH, maybe you can answer my question about edamame,
    I was served it at a Japanese restaurant the other day but wasn't sure how to eat it
    Do you eat the shells, or pop the beans out?

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    • Pop 'em! If you're like me, you pop them into your mouth out of the pods. If you're like my wife, you put the pod in your mouth and pull the bean out with your teeth. Gets more of the (usually) salt that way.

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    • Pop the beans out! I always forget to tell guests this when I serve it.

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  9. I LOVE edamame! I hadn't even considered trying to grow my own. Does anyone know how they fare in containers? I'm an apartment dweller, but we have a fair-sized balcony that we turn into a pretty packed garden in the summertime. If they do well in containers, I might have to pick some up for this summer. That is, if I can find room…LOL

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    • If you have enough sun and a large container, they'll totally do it. They like some depth, and if you give them a tall urn about 24" across you could get….enough for a few servings. :)

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  10. I LOVE EDAMAME.
    I have a problem. I pop this stuff like it's candy. Like, every day at lunch time. But it's so good for you! And it's a vegetable! And there's fiber! And I don't care who knows I'm a edamame fiend.

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  11. Please don't grow Leguminosae on the same spot every year. Though they are a great fertilizer, the soil will get tired from it (as we say in Germany) and you might encounter decreases in yield and have to cope with pests and weed. Better try to do a crop rotation and plant soy beans or any other bean/ pea/ lentil just every 5 years on the same spot!

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  12. A few others have asked the same, or similar questions – how well would this do indoors? I lived in Japan for a year, and this became a wonderful, tasty snack, that I've only seen a few times back at home.
    Also, I've always wondered, is it naturally salty??

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  13. I <3 Edamame but alas, my body does not. Any unfermented soy sends me immediately to the bathroom for several hours if I'm lucky. :(

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  14. I am moving into a house next month in zone 5a – not enough time to really garden but I want to at least prep for next year. Do you think if we seed indoors now and plant in the ground in early June we could get a crop out of it? When do you harvest?

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    • Me toooo! We own the house as of next week (!!!) but aren't moving in until the end of June while renovations are being done. We expect to come over on weekends to mow the lawn/water/etc., but there'll be a limit to what we can do. Is July too late to start any kind of garden (zone 6)?

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  15. another good popcorn replacement is cauliflower! drizzle with flax seed oil, sprinkle on some sea salt and if your in the mood for a cheesy flavor dump some nutritional yeast on it! sooooo addictive

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  16. It's a dish found in only a few restaurants

    That made me giggle. I lived in Japan for six years, and edamame is a pretty typical appetizer. My husband and I usually ordered it. And ate edamame at least four times a week when it was in season! (And about twice a week when it wasn't!) Oh, I miss it. I'd sometimes put a bit of butter on top as well as salt, and it was so good.

    It's amazing with beer, too. Just sayin'.

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  17. If anyone has a Trader Joe's nearby and can't grow enough of their own beans to satisfy the constant edamame craving, TJ' has good sized frozen bags for about $2.

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  18. To any ladies on The Pill: Edamame are delicious, and they can make you insane.

    See, they've got phytoestrogens in them, and if you eat a ton and do so often, you can sort of OD on estrogen. I noticed that I got really mean and a bit paranoid well before I got the chance to mess up my periods too much–though I did get the most spectacular cramps that much. Same goes for chugging soy. I drank a half gallon a week and messed myself up that way, too.

    This can also happen to ladies who are just estrogen sensitive. Something to keep in mind. USE WITH CAUTION, but the consequences aren't dire.

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    • Along these lines, unfermented soy is something that anyone with thyroid issues should stay far away from. I had to have my thyroid removed because of cancer and a goiter from Hashimoto's disease (as did my sister and mother) so I've done a fair amount of reading on this issue and I would suggest that anyone with hormonal issues at all should steer clear.

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