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Edamame (page 2 of 2)

by Charlie Nardozzi

As Easy as Beans

Edamame are as easy to grow as bush beans but take a little longer. In my Vermont garden, I've harvested plump pods in late August from a May planting. In the South, you can even have two crops: one planted in March for a May or June harvest, and another planted in September for a November harvest.

Plant edamame as you would bush beans. After the soil has warmed to 60° F, sow seeds 1 inch deep and 2 to 4 inches apart, in rows 2 feet apart. In poorer soil, mix the seed with a legume inoculant strain for soybeans before planting. Inoculants help the plants fix atmospheric nitrogen, making this key nutrient more available. To produce an abundant crop, mulch with a 2- to 4-inch layer of hay or straw to retain soil moisture and keep weeds at bay. In sandy or low-fertility soils, side-dress at flowering with a 10-20-20 fertilizer at a rate of 1 pound per 100-foot row.

Edamame have few pests and diseases. In the South, the bean leaf roller can hamper growth, and powdery mildew can rot the beans on the plant before harvest. However, these problems are rarely severe enough to reduce yields or require controls.

Harvesting edamame at the right time is critical. Beans reach their maximum sweetness about a month after flowering. The quality is best when beans fill 85 percent of the pod, which should be bright green, similar to snow peas in color. One 2-foot-tall plant may yield up to 30 pods. You can pick individual beans off the plants or pull the whole plant out of the ground when most of the beans are mature, and then pick the beans later.

Be careful when harvesting individual beans. The stems are brittle, and I've broken a few when trying to harvest too fast.

Eating Beans

The traditional way to eat edamame is to boil or steam 2 cups at a time for 5 minutes. The beans should have a bright, not pale, green color after cooking. Let them cool, salt to taste, then eat. If you can't use them all at once, keep raw beans in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. To store them longer, blanch whole pods for 2 to 3 minutes and freeze them in the pod for up to six months.

Although edamame are usually served as a snack or appetizer, if you can resist popping them in your mouth they also make great additions to soups, stir-fries, and salads.

Charlie Nardozzi is a senior horticulturist at National Gardening.

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