About edamame: what they are, how to cook them, what to serve them with – and are they any good for you?

I’ve eaten edamame many times in restaurants, thinking that they looked like a healthy, low-calorie snack to nibble, to stave off hunger pangs while I waited for the main event to arrive.

The other day I actually bought some…and then I thought I’d better find out a bit more about them – what were they, in fact, and what else could I do with them aside from nibble on some plain ones?


What are edamame?

Edamame, I discovered, are immature soy beans. The word is Japanese, meaning ‘stem bean’ because the beans are often sold still on their stem. They are widely eaten throughout China, Korea and Japan…and nowadays also throughout the West.


How to cook edamame

Don’t eat edamame raw; and don’t eat the pod.

Ubiquitously they are steamed (until tender – five to ten minutes) or blanched (for five to six minutes, often in salted water) in the pod.

However they can also be dry roasted – five to ten minutes in an oven preheated to 210°C.

Or you can dry fry them – turn frequently, until they just begin to char.

Frozen edamame can be reheated by blanching or microwaving (on high – add a little water to the bowl) for two or three minutes.

Serve them with:

  • Salt with an interesting mouthfeel – go here for more about salt – I would suggest Maldon salt for mouthfeel, or pink Himalayan rock salt for colour.
  • Garlic
  • Sesame seeds – black ones look spectacular
  • Red chilli flakes – any of: paprika, Espelette pepper, Aleppo pepper, or Byadgi chilli
  • Lime juice and zest
  • Olive oil
  • Parmesan
  • frozen edamame make a great lunch box salad with equal quantities of peas and broad beans, mixed with soy sauce, olive oil, sake, ginger, spring onions and a few torn leaves of rocket or watercress

Alternatively you can hull them – or use frozen, and add them to salads.


Ideal drinks pairing

A good sake, of course!


Storing edamame

Keep them moist, in plastic bags in the fridge, for three or four days.

You can freeze fresh edamame, but they need to be blanched first.


Just how healthy are edamame really?

It’s very hard to say just how healthy edamame really are – the information is very mixed. Some warn that most edamame are genetically modified (controversial in itself). There are other problems relating to the soy. For the ‘against’ argument go to The Healthy Home Economist blog.

The alternative view posits that edamame are full of healthy and low-fat soy protein….for a good post on the benefits of edamame, go to The Live Strong blog.


Growing edamame

If you are growing edamame in a cooler climate (Northern Europe…including the UK) Green Shell is a good variety – you can get seeds from Suttons and Nicky’s Nursery.

Sow and Grow inside in late April, and replant outside as soon as there is no danger of frosts. Harvest as soon as they have ripened.


For a guide to sake by Natsuki Kikuya, founder of the Museum of Sake, follow this link.


about edamame beans
Serve them with salt


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