Your vegetable garden is missing something. A “bean on a branch” plant that per cup beholds eight grams of fiber (nearly a third of your daily needs), a good amount of potassium with a powerful protein punch! It’s edamame! Widely known as an immature soybean, edamame is easy to grow and offers bushels of flavor in the kitchen.
During my experience as a garden nutrition educator, we planted edamame frequently. Why? Because it was a thrill to watch it pop out of the ground, grow two to three feet tall and then harvest the pods hiding under the leaves! While it was fun to watch the edamame plants grow and produce pods, it was even more exciting to eat the beans inside the pods. The kids simply squeezed the pods between their fingers to pop the sweet and crunchy edamame beans right into their mouths.
Sounds like a dream come true, kids eating vegetable right out of the garden! Getting kids involved in the process of growing food can make a significant impact on eating habits. In fact, research shows that vegetable gardening enhances motivation and preferences for vegetables, improves diet and reduces obesity in children1, 2.
So, get out and grow edamame. It’s a cinch to plant, care for and harvest. Here are a few tips:
- Plant edamame seeds when the soil is warm or after the last frost. The soil temperature should be at least 55 degrees. But know this, edamame can handle a variety of conditions including drought, light shade and clay-based soil.
- Edamame plants need space. They need about 12-18 inches between plants for the highest yield of edamame pods. However, if you don’t have a very large garden or you are working with a pot, you can sow them as little as four inches apart.
- Don’t forget to water. While edamame can tolerate drought, consistent watering will produce the best harvest.
- When it’s time to harvest, all the edamame plants will be ready at one time. And there is a short window to harvest once the pods are ready to pick, about three to seven days. How do you know when the pods are ready to harvest? Take a look at the pods – they should be plump and bright green. If they are yellow, you’ve waited too long. You can even take a look at the leaves, if the leaves are just beginning to turn a yellow-green color, that’s the time to harvest.
Once the edamame is harvested, the flavor will be the best soon after picking. Steam the edamame or toss it into a soup or stir-fry. You can even make edamame dip! Or if you harvested quite a bit of edamame, do a quick blanch by adding the edamame to boiling water for one minute and remove to ice water. Drain and freeze in freezer bags or containers.
It’s time to take action, head to your nearest garden nursery and give edamame a try! With these tips, you will find it’s easy to grow and delicious to eat!
- Nicole M. Gratto, et al. “LA Sprouts: A Garden-Based Nutrition Intervention Pilot Program Influences Motivation and Preferences for Fruits and Vegetables in Latino Youth,” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 112, Issue 6 (2012): 913-920.
- Jaimie N. Davis, et al. “LA Sprouts: A Gardening, Nutrition and Cooking Intervention for Latino Youth Improves Diet and Reduces Obesity,” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 111, Issue 8 (2011): 1224-1230.
Jen Haugen, RDN, LD is an award-winning dietitian and family nutrition consultant with extensive retail and clinical nutrition experience. Known as the Down-to-Earth Dietitian, Jen specializes in nourishing moms so they can better nourish their families through kitchen-counter cooking schools and modern-day victory gardens. She recently presented her first TEDx talk on “How Moms Can Change the World,” and even more recently transitioned from full-time retail dietitian to part-time school dietitian so she can more fully live her values by spending more time cooking and gardening with her family and working with food companies that value family too. Find her at www.jenhaugen.com and @jenhaugen.