Soybeans are a type of legume native to eastern Asia. They are one of the best sources of fiber and plant-based protein – one cup of boiled soybeans has approximately 29 grams of protein! Generally, there are 2-3 beans per pod.
How to Grow: Soybeans are a warm-weather crop. They should be planted as seeds, 1-2” deep, in well-drained soil that is 65-85° or they will not germinate. Plant 6-12” apart in rows that are spaced 18-30” apart. Keep the soil moist. Soybeans are self-pollinating, so they may be covered until they are ready to harvest to protect them from insect and pest damage (bunnies are very fond of the tender, young plants). If you want a continuous supply of beans, plant seeds several weeks apart through mid-summer.
Container Friendly?: Yes, soybeans can be grown in large containers. Any container that has drainage holes and is at least 12” wide and 12” deep can be used for three plants.
How to Harvest: Soybeans for edamame are harvested by the plant. Cut the plant at the base (leaving the nitrogen-rich roots to decompose in the soil) when the beans are plump in the pods and when the leaves are just starting to turn from bright green to yellow. Remove the pods from the stems and rinse.
For dry beans, wait until 90% of the leaves are dry and pull the plant out by its roots. Place in the sun and continue to dry (do not let them get wet). When free from any moisture, remove from pods and store the beans in a cool place or freeze.
Common Varieties: Midori Giant is a common, early maturing variety that is available from many seed companies and they do well in our garden zone. Chiba Green is an earlier variety that claims to taste even better!
Recipes: To prepare fresh edamame, steam or boil the pods in salted (optional) water for 5 minutes. Cool. To eat, just put one edamame pod in your mouth, slide out the edamame beans with your teeth, and discard the pods (you eat the beans, not the pods). Alternately, you can remove the beans from the pods first, and then you can place them in a bowl and garnish them with spices of your choice.
Other soybean recipe ideas: