BY LEE REICH
The Associated Press
No need to ramble on praising the many health benefits of soybeans, their high quality protein, their healthful oil, and so on. We’ll assume you’re not living in a cave.
Let’s also keep quiet about the gustatory alchemy that has been wrought on this bean, transforming it into tofu and tempeh as well as “meat,” milk and ice cream.
However, soybeans deserve special mention in their simplest form: the fresh green bean merely steamed or boiled then popped out of its pod into your mouth.
This vegetable often goes under its Japanese name, edamame. If you want one new vegetable to try in your garden this year, make edamame that vegetable.
Soybeans are bushy, frost-tender plants that you grow just like bush green beans. Make rows a couple of feet apart, or, if you garden in beds, plant a row down either side of a bed. In either case, drop seeds three inches apart into furrows an inch deep.
Green soybeans taste something like a cross between a fresh lima bean and shelling pea – and it’s as easy as those plants, or easier, to grow. Soybeans tolerate hot weather better than peas, which languish in summer heat, and cool weather better than limas, which languish in spring’s coolness. And Mexican bean beetles, which in some years devastate green beans, have little interest in soybeans.
Once you’re smitten by the delectable taste of edamame and want to stretch the harvest season, do so by planting varieties that take different times to mature.
Soybean plants grow larger than bush green bean plants, so they tend to flop over. If you like your garden to be neat, just put stakes around the edges of the beds, then let the plants lean on one or two courses of string tied to the stakes.
I also must mention animals: Soybeans are dessert to rabbits and deer. If either of these animals are present and can get into your garden, forget about growing soybeans – unless you want to grow them as a trap crop to keep either of these creatures from feeding on other plants.
Harvest edamame pods when they are fully plump and still bright green. As with limas and some other beans, edamame must be cooked before they’re fit to eat.
Steam or boil them in their pods for about eight minutes before eating. Cooled pods gladly release their beans when gently squeezed between your fingers. If you harvest more than you can eat fresh, pack excess cooked pods into bags and into your freezer.