Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Gardening: Growing Edamame in Containers

I love edamame or soybeans. They remind me of my grandma and grandpa's house. When we were little, Grandpa I would grow these in his garden. He would harvest them and Grandma I would be in charge of boiling up some of these yummy (and healthy) treats. Till today, I still think of edamame as comfort snack. I usually wait until they go on sale at the Asian market for 99 cents a package before stocking up.

While doing research on container gardening, I came across this article:

Growing my own edamame? Now why didn't I think of that. I think it was because I assumed you needed a lot of space for them. However, this article says no. You can grow them in pots and in fact, they are easy to grow. There isn't much info out there for growing edamame in pots so I thought, what the heck. It's worth a try.

Just in case you were wondering why you should grow them...have you ever had edamame boiled fresh? They are sooo good! I can attest to the fact that grandpa's edamame were much much better than anything you can find frozen in the stores! Not only that, edamame are nutritious! A 100 gram serving (about 35 pods of beans) have 125 calories, 12 grams of protein, 13 grams of carbs and only 3.5 gram of fat. It's rich in calcium, phosphorus and a good source of Vitamin A.

Have I gotten your attention yet? Well read on!

I purchased some Sweet Sansei Soybeans from New Dimension Seed Company. Edamame seeds maybe hard to come by in your area. I visited several stores before finding these. If you can't find them, fear not. You can always order them on-line. There are several suppliers of edamame seeds.

The article above recommends soaking the seeds overnight. I didn't do this and all of my seeds grew. Like most beans, they grow very well from seed. They also sprout up fast so if you're an instant gratification kinda guy/girl, you'll be pleased! Edamame seeds like warmth. If you will be direct sowing them outside, wait until the soil has warmed up to at least 65 degrees before planting them. Plant seeds about 3 inches apart and 1 inch deep. Or if you can't wait to get them started (like me), sow them indoors and transplant them once the weather warms up. Edamame seeds will easily rot if overwatered so use water sparingly!

Once they sprout, they'll grow quickly. The plants below are about 1 month old. They're nice and pretty. The leaves are delicate and flutter in the wind. The package said that these edamame don't need to be staked but they were quite droopy. I staked them with skewers but as you can see, they're quickly outgrowing them. I'll have to stake them with bamboo sticks.
The article says because of a small root system, you can plant soybeans 2 inches apart. The article also goes on to say that an 8 inch pot can easily accommodate 6 plants. I was a little hesitant about this advice because the instructions on the seed packets says that once they grow, thin plants to 8 inches apart. It might be just because of the variety I had planted. The pot above is about 12 inches in diameter and I planted 3 plants. I have 2 more plants that were in the same batch so I think I'll put them in this pot and see how they do. It's all about trial and error right?

Edamame grow similarly to bush beans. They are like other legumes, and are able to fix nitrogen from the air and provides added nitrogen to the soil. So when you're done container gardening your edamame, plant something else in its place, they'll love the added nitrogen!

Grow edamame plants in full sun. They grow in most soil types. For my containers, I mixed potting soil with compost. A single soybean plant produces all of it's "fruit" once and all at the same time. Early varieties mature in 65 days. Most plants will grow to 2 feet in height.

This is what the plant will look like close to harvest (HERE). The color of the pods will indicate when it's time to harvest. They are ready when the pods are bright green and the beans inside are almost touching. Once the pods start turning yellow, the beans become starchy and lose that sweet flavor. The harvest window for edamame can be as short as 3-4 days so monitor pods closely once they start to form. Also, one source says that the beans are most flavorful when pods are harvested in the evening (vs. the mornings).

You can either harvest each pod by hand (kids will love this, it's like an Easter egg hunt!) or just pull out the entire plant and harvest. Either way, the plant will be done producing and you'll have to start all over. If you and your family love soybeans, you may want to do successive plantings every 1-2 weeks to keep that supply coming!

Once you have harvested your edamame plant, refrigerate, freeze, cook or blanch the pods as soon as possible after picking to preserve flavor and nutrients. To serve edamame immediately, boil freshly picked pods in salted water for about 10 minutes. Drain off the water and serve. However, if you've harvested more edamame than you can eat, blanch them first and freeze them for later. Blanch the pods by boiling them in salted water for only 1 minute. Drain the pods and immediately immerse them in ice water to stop the cooking process. Once they are chilled, drain pods of edamame and dry them on paper towels or napkins. Portion them out and freeze them in heavy-duty plastic bags or Food Saver them. When you're ready to eat them from the freezer, plunge the entire plastic bag into a pot of boiling water for 15 minutes (frozen) and 4-6 minutes (defrosted). Drain them and serve!

That's what I've learned so far about edamame. Check back with me later on how the container experiment went. I'm sure I'll have lots to report!


Susan said...

I've never thought of growing edamame in a container. I look forward to seeing how it turns out for you!

Jami @ An Oregon Cottage said...

I grew a couple of rows of edamame a few years ago and missed the small harvest window, so didn't get one fresh! It might be easier to do a few in pots close to the kitchen, so I'll be curious to see how it goes for you.

Thanks for participating (and keep us posted!) at the Tuesday Garden Party!