September Garden and Edamame

Neither the nearby earthquake (the epicenter located in Mineral, VA.) last month, nor hurricane Irene winds have harmed my garden. The rain from Lee–a subsequent tropical storm, however, has washed away seeds planted earlier. Still, I have replanted my late summer crop: collard and turnip greens, and rape (flat kale); the egg plant and lettuce continue to produce.  (To see my garden as of this posting, visit my video on YouTube.)

The bush beans have a few blossoms although the “Mexican beetle, or leaf beetle” have eaten the leaves, leaving them looking like  lace.   (Home Grown Daisy Spray, mentioned in Jerry Baker’s Bug Off! works, and is an excellent remedy.)   It is unlikely there will be a second bean Edamame pod clusters crop.   The same bugs have attacked my edamame plants, but despite the bug infestation, the plants have produced a bounty.  The warm days and cool evenings, experienced here for several days, are ideal growing conditions for edamame.  Still, there is a critical point in harvesting before the pods turn from a bright green to a dull brown. Once this happens, the beans become tough and less desirable to eat.

The edamame is a popular bean in Asian countries and is often eaten as tofu (first known to be used in 164 A.D. according to Peggy’s Premium). As more and more Asian restaurants populate our cities and towns this edible bean will find its way into our diet as a staple. Edamame is ideal for snacking, and it is how a friend first introduced me to this bean.  Its texture reminds me of partially cooked green pea, but the similarity ends there.

Edamame

Edamame pod clusters

Edamame has a nutty flavor resembling a raw peanut. Typically this prolific plant produces three beans per bright green clustered pods. Edamame is a prolific plant.     (Generally speaking, the smaller the pod count per bag, the better the quality.)   The beans contain many nutritional compounds for good health,  are naturally high in fiber, protein, and antioxidants.

The nutrients in this bean contribute to the elasticity of the arteries, improve cardiac health, and may reduce the risk of heart disease. There is some confusion about women eating soy.  On one hand, according to Vegetarian Nutrition Info,  soybean could potentially increase the risk of breast cancer.  On the other, “it is the phytoestrogens in soy that appear to have anti-estrogenic properties,” says Dr. Gourmet.  This  article goes on to say, “the belief that a diet high in soy might prevent breast cancer has some merit.”  So, there you have it.   The debate about soy (edamame) and breast cancer continues.

On another note,  many farmers have decided against growing this bean because of the difficulty in harvesting the beans.  Atkins Farm, in Hadely, Massachusetts, avoid some of the harvesting problems by selling stems gathered into small bundles. One of the workers has explained to me this is the preferred method of keeping the edible soybean fresh and flavorful, and far less labor intensive than pulling the pods off the stem as I later learned.

Because of the bugs and other insects nesting in the plants, it is best to thoroughly wash the stems before leaving the garden the to avoid bringing stink bugs and other critters into your living space. After completing this tedious project of picking the pods from the stem, which required two hours of manual labor for me, I have a yield of well over six pounds of edamame pods ready to cook.

Edamame in freezer bags

Edamame in freezer bags

I have tried a two different methods of cooking edamame. The traditional method, of bringing salted water to a boil and let the pods boil for roughly five minutes.  This is how a friend introduced me to this bean.  After boiling, then transfer the pods to a cold bowl of water to stop the cooking process.  Finally, you can freeze them using quart size freezer bags as I have to preserve freshness and space in my freezer section of my refrigerator.

Another method I have used is to add to the boiling water spices such as crushed red pepper, or few fresh herbs–Rosemary and thyme are excellent choices.  I am trying to reduce salt in my diet. The most popular way to eat Edamame is to squeeze the beans out of the pods using teeth or fingers directly into the mouth.

I have become particularly fond of adding the shelled beans along with my cooked blackeye peas to my shrimp and bean salad. No matter how you serve this bean, edamame is a delightful snack by themselves, providing an excellent mix of nutrition and healthy variation.  Friends earlier unaware of edamame are now seeking out this bean, which is easy to grow and well worth the effort to harvest.

About Harold McCray

Artist in the kitchen enjoying my three passions: cooking, photography, and writing.
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