Plant: Japanese edamame
Common name: Baby soybeans, butterbeans
Latin name: Glycine max
Description: A bright green, shiny and annual herb, edamame grows bushy in the garden. After flowering in the summer sunshine, small bean-like fruits appear among the foliage.
As the pods grow bigger, they develop a fuzzy, bumpy and lumpy look where the maturing soybeans protrude. Soon, pods appear thick and much like pea pods.
Edamame is the Japanese name for soybeans. Recently, edamame has become more familiar on menus as Japanese restaurants have sprouted up in Ohio in the past several years. When eaten plain, the baby soybean is slightly sweet, nutty and mild-flavored.
In Asian countries, the soybean is a staple food often served whole, in the pod. The subtropical plant is lush and green with large basal leaves. It grows 1 to 5 feet tall, depending on its type. As the season progresses, the leaves can reach several inches long and pods each carry an average of three ripening beans.
Origin: Native to East Asia, Glycine max belongs to the Fabaceae or pea family.
Tips: Ohioans can grow soybeans in the home garden. Look for beans with a botanical name of Glycine max. Pods are ready to pick about 90 days from germination. Soybeans enjoy sunshine and well-drained soil.
Varieties: Typically soybeans are green, but these little gems also come in black, yellow and brown. The United States grows a large percentage of the worldâ€™s soybeans.
How to use: As an edible food, the edamame plant or soybean can be grown just as a gardener would grow an annual pea or bean plant. The pods can be picked when tender and steamed whole. Try cooking the pods with different methods or squeeze the beans from their pods and cook them on their own. A simple sautÃ© of baby beans with salt and pepper makes a healthy side dish.
Organic soybeans are loaded with protein and other healthful compounds. The beans also are rich in molybdenum, manganese, iron, tryptophan, omega 3 fatty acids, fiber, phosphorus, vitamin K and potassium and much more.
Not growing a garden? Experiment with organic soybeans (non-pesticide) or soy products found in the market. Try soy milk, tofu, tempeh or miso, soybean oil, soy sauce and soy nuts (delicious), just to name a few.
â€” Lorraine Barnett