Last year we planted edamame as a "let's try this out" crop and discovered that we really liked the beans. We grew two varieties specifically bred for fresh eating: "Beer Friend" and "Be Sweet". Edamame is a popular bar snack in Japan where bowls of steamed pods are available on bars like bowls of peanuts are here. Thus the "Beer Friend" variety. However, we found we preferred the "Be Sweet" variety and planted one 4'x20' bed for this year's consumption and one 2'x20' bed for seed. The edamame required little in the way of care while growing; just some watering and a little occasional cultivation. That's my kind of crop!
This year's crop is ready for eating and preserving.
To prepare the beans you have to get them out of the hulls. The hulls are tough, fibrous and hairy, and you can't just sit down and shell them like peas or limas (which they resemble). You need to give them a thorough blanching and shocking. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. If you have a pot with a steamer insert that works even better. Fill the sink (or a large bowl) with cold tap water.
Once the water is boiling drop in the pods and immediately time them for 5 minutes. When the 5 minutes are up remove the pods from the boiling water and drop immediately into the cold water to stop the cooking. When cool, lift from the cold water and allow to drain in a colander. After that drop them on some layers of newspaper to drain even more.
Next, put on an audiobook to play, set up a comfortable seat and an empty bowl, and get ready to hull the beans. It isn't a difficult job but when you're doing half a 4'x20' bed at a time, it can take awhile and be slightly tedious.
Pick up a pod between the thumbs and forefingers of each hand, hold over a bowl, and pinch. The beans will pop out of the pod and into the bowl. Discard the hull. Repeat. And repeat. Repeat again.
Once you get the rhythm going it doesn't take long to amass a pile of beans.
When the beans are frozen, lift the foil to loosen them, pour into freezer bags, label, date, and store in the freezer. To use, pour out the desired quantity, press air out of the bag and return to the freezer.
Michael was seriously craving the first bowl of these from the garden, simply dressed with fresh squeezed lemon, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Later we'll enjoy them all kinds of ways. Use them as you would lima beans or butter beans. Enjoy them straight out of the pod as a snack with drinks like the Japanese do. Toss them with salt and your favorite spices, then bake them into a toasty, salty, nut-like snack. Add them to soups and salads. And definitely explore their use in Asian dishes. We've come to enjoy the versatility of edamame to the point where we'll probably give up growing limas with all their problems to provide more space for this delicious, easy to grow fresh bean.