A half dozen years ago if you’d seen a meatless dish or a fancy overstated salad featuring edamame, you’d have said “Edawhaaaaat?!”
I would’ve said the same thing, though my version wouldn’t have been so polite. Something along the lines of “What the @#$%^ is edamame?”
Well, times change and the culinary artists throughout America are always on the hunt for a new exotic ingredient for sumptuous sounding dishes like edamame and shoepeg corn with grapeseed oil and fresh fennel. The real deal on the exotic sounding vegetable is this…it’s a soybean. That’s right…a soybean.
Edamame isn’t some new pea out of the pod. The word edamame is the Japenese preparation method of blanching an immature soybean in salt water. It’s delicious and nutritious. Plus, it sounds a lot better than tofu. Alright…I know… tofu is the pressed bean curds from soybeans. But both are branches on the same nutritional tree, and I much prefer a tasty little green bean than a chunk of white curd. I said “curd”, right?
The funniest part is that the largest producer of soybeans in the world is…you guessed it…the United States. The US supplies 36% of all soybeans and soy products worldwide. In fact, the US exported over 830 million bushels of soybeans to Japan, China and Taiwan last year. I wonder if some of these were harvested in an immature state and became…right again…edamame!
As with many of the things that we eat, we should keep an eye on our furry friends. In our area, whitetail deer love a soybean field. In the spring and early summer you quite literally can’t keep them out. As summer fades to fall and harvest time, the beans begin to yellow and dry. Guess what, Mr. and Mrs. Whitetail find another food source. The oldtimers used to tell me that “the sugar was gone.” I still don’t quite know what that means, but I can say that the soybean in its immature state (before yellowing) is tasty and sweet right from the field.
I imagine that some enterprising Japenese fella tried boiling these early beans in a bit of salt water and probably danced around shouting “Edamame!” I’m not positive regarding the exact translation but I’m pretty sure it’s “Jeez, these sugary immature soybeans taste good as #$%^ when you zap them in a little salt water!”
So…don’t be afraid of our little green friend, the soybean, in its edamame disguise. Better yet swing through a field near you a grab a handful of soybean pods before they begin to yellow, strip out the beans, blanch them in water and sea salt, and make your own edamame treat. Maybe, next year we’ll only export 826,521 bushels!