By MELINDA MYERS
Add a bit of fiber to your garden and diet. Consider growing edamame (edible soybeans) in this year’s garden.
Soybeans help promote overall health reducing the risk of high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Plus, the high fiber in soy helps fight colon and some other cancers.
Edamame is an ancient Asian vegetable and is often eaten right from the pod like peanuts. Edible soybeans are also used for making tofu, tempeh, soy nut snacks and more. In addition to their high fiber content, soybean’s high protein content has made them a popular meat substitute.
Soybeans can be grown in a variety of soils and climate. They tolerate adverse conditions but perform best in warm temperatures, full sun, and moist well-drained soils. Add organic matter to less-than-ideal soils to improve drainage in heavy clay soils and increase the water holding capacity in sandy and rocky soils.
Try growing one of the edible soybean varieties such as Agate, Chiba Green, Midori Giant, and Envy. These have a better flavor and are more suited to your garden and recipes than field varieties.
Wait for the soil to warm for quick germination and increased success. Grow edible soybeans in a sunny spot. Plant and care for them the same as you would lima beans. Plant seeds three inches apart and one to one and a half inches deep in rows 24 to 36 inches apart. Once the plants sprout and grow, thin them out by removing the weaker seedlings, so the remaining plants are six inches apart.
Harvest the soybeans when the pods are plump, green, rough, and hairy. They are usually ready to harvest in 80 to 120 days, depending on the variety. Check frequently and pick when the seeds are fully enlarged but before they get hard. Waiting too long to harvest the seeds reduces the flavor and quality. Since all the seed filled pods usually ripen at the same time, you can pull up the whole plant and harvest the seeds from pods while sitting on a chair in the shade.
Use edamame within two to three days of harvest for the best quality. Store fresh edamame in the refrigerator in a perforated plastic bag.
Cook edamame by steaming, boiling, or microwaving the pods. Allow them to cool, then pop out the seeds to enjoy. Don’t let any surplus go to waste. Blanche, then freeze whole pods or the seeds. Or dry the shelled edamame in the oven or dehydrator to use throughout the year.
Purchase seeds and carve out some space in your garden or containers for this nutritious vegetable.
(Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including The Midwest Gardener’s Handbook and Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally-syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio program. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Her web site is www.melindamyers.com.)