Edamame, also popular as green vegetable soybeans, are raw, young, immature beans in the pod of a soybean plant. The beans particularly popular in the East-Asian cuisine, especially in Japan, Korea, and China. These garden pea-like bean pods are quietly gaining popularity inside the USA as well as in some European countries recently.
Binomially, Edamame is same as soybean, an annual dicotyledonous plant, belonging to the family of Fabaceae (Leguminosae), in the genus, Glycine.
Scientific name: Glycine max. (L.) Merr.
|Edamame bean pods on a soy plant.
Photo courtesy: acme.
Soybean is a very rapid-growing, small annual plant reaching about 2-3 feet in height. It flourishes in well-drained sandy soil along with adequate moisture. Short-stalked green pods cover the entire soy plant about 70 days after plantation. Young edamame pods feature about 1.5-2 inches long, swollen, straight or slightly curved, filled with a single row of 2-5 light green, smooth seeds. If left, the seeds continue mature further, and dry in the pods.
Harvesting is done by handpicking individual pods. In Japan, the whole soy plant cut at the soil surface or pulled off the ground, bundled in small bunches and dispatched for markets.
Boiled beans possess soft, creamy texture and delicately beany taste akin to that of lima or hyacinth beans.
Like wasabi, edamame beans uniquely represents Japanese culinary tradition. Green soybeans played a role as important sources of plant protein. 100 g beans carry 110 calories and provide 10.25 g or 18% of daily recommended intake of protein.
Edamame carry moderate amounts of vitamins, minerals, fibers, and plant sterols.
Fresh edamame is an excellent source of folates. 100 grams of fresh beans carry 303 µg or 76% of folates. Folate, along with vitamin B-12, is one of the essential componenets of DNA synthesis and cell division. Consumption of diet adequate in folates around conception and during pregnancy time would help prevent neural-tube defects in the newborn baby.
Green soybeans are good sources of many B-complex vitamins, especially riboflavin, pyridoxine, thiamin (vitamin B-1), pantothenic acid, and niacin. Most of these vitamins work as co-enzymes in carbohydrate, protein, and fat metabolism.
Fresh beans contain moderate levels of vitamin-C (provides 9.7 mg or about 16% of DRI). Vitamin-C is a natural antioxidant. Studies suggest that it help prevent free radical injury, act as an immune booster, and anti-inflammatory agent.
Furthermore, the beans indeed are one of the ideal sources of minerals like calcium, iron, copper, manganese, zinc, and magnesium. 100 g of fresh beans hold 26% DRI (daily recommended intake) of iron, 56% of magnesium, 36% of copper and 73% of manganese. Manganese used by the body as a co-factor for the potent antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
Fresh edamame beans on the plant (put for sale) can be found in the Japanese and other East-Asian markets. Inside the US, however, frozen pods in vacuum packs, or frozen shelled edamame beans can be available in the supermarkets. In Japan, entire soy plant with fresh pods cut at the soil surface and sold in bundles.
Green soybeans have narrow harvesting period. Young, tender pods brimming with seeds, and just short of their peak maturity consider as the best quality. If left unharnessed at this stage, they continue to grow into dry soy seeds.
While buying fresh edamame bean pods from the local vegetable markets, look for green, just mature, plump, and firm pods. You may also purchase fresh or frozen beans from the grocery. Avoid sunken, yellow, shriveled pods as the beans convert their sugars into starch. As in other beans, fresh tender beans feature smooth, pale green color, but their color changes to white or cream-yellow once they dried.
Once picked up, green soybeans should be used quickly since their sugar converts to starch and seeds lose their biting, creamy texture and nutty flavor.
Once at home, if not used right away, keep them inside refrigerator where the pods stay fresh for 2-3 days.
In Japan, fresh edamame beans in pods boiled in light salted water served in a bowl as a snack. To eat, peel the string, hold the pod in both hands, and then using thumb and index fingers, gently squeeze beans into the mouth. Then discard pod peel. As in lima beans, edamame also becomes flavorful once cooked.
|Boiled and salted edamame bean pods.
Photo courtesy: edvvc
Here are some serving tips:
Boiled edamame beans can be a great addition to green salads. Fresh, beans treated like other green beans like peas, lima, etc, as bean vegetables.
In Japan, Izakaya restaurants serve boiled edamame pods as an appetizer with drinks.
Add edamame beans in stir-fries.
Edamame should always be cooked before eating. As in oter green beans like lima and hyacinth, raw edamame also carries many anti-nutritional substances, phytoestrogens, and toxins which may affect the health adversely. Consumption of raw edamame beans may cause stomach upset, diarrhea and vomiting. Boiling in salt water for at least 20 minutes eliminates most of these toxins and make the beans flavorful. Additionally, avoid them if allergic to any soy products. (Medical disclaimer)
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