Our Obsession With Edamame—Do the Benefits Meet the Hype?
Learn how to grow, cook, and reap health benefits with this plant-based protein
When my college-aged kids starting devouring these popular legumes, I must admit; I was surprised yet delighted. My daughter was never one to eat her vegetables. I quickly realized part of the appeal of ordering this appetizer at restaurants (particularly, Asian restaurants) is the ritual of sharing a common plate with friends and slurping the soybeans right out from the pod. But aside from the social interaction, fans of this veggie like to tout the health benefits around the edamame craze. Let’s take a further look at its charm.
1. Are the health benefits legit?
Yes, edamame is packed with protein, low in fat, and a good source for omega-3 fatty acids. One cup of the cooked beans has 17 grams of protein, an amount that supplies 37 percent of a woman’s required protein intake per day. The same serving contains eight grams of fiber. Edamame has much of the same nutritional benefits as other soy products, such as tofu or soy milk. Soybeans are mature, while edamame is harvested when the beans are still young and sweet. They are a “complete” protein source. So, unlike most plant proteins, they provide all the essential amino acids your body needs. They measure very low on the glycemic index, making edamame suitable for people with diabetes. Look for non-GMO products when purchasing fresh or frozen to achieve optimal health benefits.
2. Can I grow edamame in New England?
Yes, good in all growing regions (zones #1-11); soybeans are a warm-season crop, so plant the seeds when it’s time to transplant tomatoes, or when the soil is at least 60-65 degrees. Plant seeds 1″ deep, spacing them 2″ apart. Cover with soil and water well. Keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate. Don’t forget, these precious pods need full sunlight exposure. In the New England region, this means waiting approximately four weeks after the average last frost. Plan on 70 days till harvest time and monitor closely. You’ll want to pick these pods when they’re green and tasty (3-4 day window).
You can use a Burpee seed starting kit which can be found at department stores, your local nursery, or online at Burpee. Another easy way to grow edamame is to seed them in containers right outside your back door. If your kids enjoy eating them, they can be in charge of watering them! See additional planting tips from Tasty Travels. All soybeans, including edamame, are legumes that host beneficial nitrogen-fixing bacteria on their roots. So, when you’re done with your edamame, plant something else it their place—they’ll love the added nitrogen.
3. How can I add them to my recipes?
Whether fresh or frozen, edamame can be boiled whole, then shelled and eaten as a snack or added to salads, rice, stir fries, and soups. For more fun, leave them in the pods, boil, season, then gently pinch the outer edge of the pod with your teeth, popping the beans right into your mouth. Here are two easy edamame recipes you can make in a snap!
Garlic Edamame Recipe
1 (16 ounce) package frozen edamame (whole), non-GMO
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse sea salt
Low sodium soy sauce (and wasabi, if you like it)
- Boil the edamame as directed on package. Drain and set aside.
- In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Crush the 3 cloves of garlic, but leave them in one piece. Toss them into the skillet with the edamame (can be done in two batches) and sauté until the outsides of the edamame are just browning.
- Serve in a large bowl with a bowl on the side for the edamame shells. Serve with low sodium soy sauce and add a little wasabi paste (optional).
Edamame Salad Recipe
1 (16 ounce) package frozen shelled edamame (green soybeans), thawed
1 (16 ounce) package frozen sweet corn, thawed
1 (16 ounce) package frozen sweet peas, thawed
1 (12 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed (optional)
½ red onion, minced
¼ cup olive oil, or to taste
¼ cup red wine vinegar, or to taste
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon dried parsley
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon dried basil
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- Mix edamame, corn, peas, black beans, and red onion in a large bowl.
- Stir olive oil, vinegar, salt, parsley, black pepper, basil, and garlic powder into edamame mixture.
- Chill in refrigerator at least 30 minutes before serving.
As long as this appetizer is a cool thing to order at restaurants, my twenty somethings and their friends will continue to select it and slurp it together. Suffice it to say, it’s a much healthier choice than the pan-fried pork dumplings.
Maureen Ryan Thorpe is a freelance writer who grew up on the North Shore of Boston and has written about people, places, and technology for years. She aims to impart tips to readers on how to “do-it-yourself,” save money, think creatively, and live life to the fullest.