Edamame: Buying, Growing, & Eating This Superfood

Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / jcesar2015; PublicDomainPictures

Edamame are green soybeans that are harvested before they are fully mature and originate from Japan. Utopia tells you what to look out for when buying, growing and preparing Edamame.

Edamame literally means something like “stembean”, because the beans were often sold while still attached to the stem. They are often referred to as a superfood because of their high protein and fiber content. Sadly, Edamame often exert a high carbon footprint due to long transportation routes and the deforestation that occurs to accommodate additional soybean cultivation.

Low in Carbs, High in protein and amino acids

Soybeans are low in carbohydrates and high in protein. (Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / jcesar2015)

Edamame are not only an excellent source of protein, but also nine essential amino acids that your body cannot produce on its own: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine.

Nutritional values of 100 g Edamame:

  • 125 kcal
  • 12 g protein
  • 13 g carbohydrates
  • 4 g fat

This makes Edamame a filling snack and perfect for a low-carb diet.

Buying Edamame: What should I look for?

In many areas, Edamame are only available in Asian supermarkets, but many organic supermarkets or health food stores also offer Edamame. Edamame are usually found in the freezer aisle, as they are mainly cultivated in southeast Asia, then flash frozen to preserve their nutrients during transport.

This brings us to Edamame’s main drawback. Its environmental impact is often criticized, not only for for the energy used to ship it thousands of miles from the field to your table but also because:

  • Many square kilometres of rainforest fall victim to global soy production, even though the majority of soy cultivation is intended for meat production.
  • According to World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), 1,800 litres (475 gallons) of water are consumed in the cultivation of one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of imported soybeans.
  • The “water footprint” of soy is more than 8 times higher when used for meat production. Additionally, chemicals used in conventional agriculture have a significant impact on the environment.

To help ensure that your Edamame are not involved in this environmental destruction, pay attention to organic labeling and place of origin.

Grow your own Edamame

Soybean sprouts. (Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / jcesar2015)

Even though soybeans for Edamame are mainly grown in Asia, they can be cultivated in a variety of climates. As soon as the overnight temperature in your area reliably exceeds 10ºC (50ºF), you can start planting soybeans in your own garden.

Getting Started:

  1. Make a furrow about 3-4 cm (1-2 in) deep.
  2. Put a soybean in it every 4 cm (2 in).
  3. Cover the beans with soil, and gently compact it.
  4. Keep the soil moist until the plants emerge, then water only when dry.
  5. Consider barriers to protect against birds and rabbits.

As a rule, you can harvest about two months after sowing. Consider planting a few edamame plants every week or two to enjoy fresh Edamame throughout the harvest season. Since Edamame are immature soybeans, you should be careful to harvest them when they are still green and have fine hairs.

Preparing Edamame: Tasty snack or side dish

Edamame go great with asian-style soups. (Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / amazona1004)

Edamame are usually eaten as an appetizer, snack, or side dish. The preparation is very simple:

  • Boil the immature soybeans in their pods in salted water for five minutes, allowing them to remain slightly crunchy.
  • Remove the pods from the water and sprinkle them with coarse sea salt. The pods must still be wet so that the salt will stick to them.
  • Consider enhancing the flavor by adding chili and lime juice or sesame oil and Tabasco. A mixture of sesame oil, lime juice and soy sauce is also delicious.
  • While the whole soybean pod is cooked, only the beans inside are eaten. To do that, you must squeeze the beans to release them from the pod. Many people suck the beans out of the pod- one more reason to buy organic!

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