Edamame

14 Interesting Facts About Edamame

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Edamame are young soybeans, often served boiled or steamed still in the pod as an appetizer or snack. Their mild, slightly sweet taste makes them popular in many Asian cuisines.

Beyond being a tasty treat, these immature soybeans are also highly nutritious. They contain significant amounts of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Additionally, edamame offers various health benefits ranging from heart health to reduced cancer risk.

Read on to learn 14 fascinating facts about this delicious, healthy food:

1. Edamame Are Picked Early

Unlike the dried soybeans used to make soy sauce, tofu, and soy milk, edamame pods are harvested while the beans inside are still soft and green. They are picked when the soybeans reach their maximum size but before they harden, typically around 80 to 90 days into growth. Picking them at this stage allows them to be cooked and eaten pod and all.

2. They Grow in Pods Like Peas

Green Beans in Colander

Edamame grows on bushes in hanging clusters much like peas or other bean varieties. The plants produce fuzzy green pods that contain 2-4 beans on average. Popular varieties have been cultivated to hold more large, plump seeds with a more appealing texture for eating.

3. They Are Thought to Originate in China

Although closely associated with Japanese cuisine, edamame is believed to trace its roots back to eastern China. The oldest record of eating green immature soybeans dates back to China’s Zhou Dynasty over 2,500 years ago. However, edamame was first introduced to Japan during the 8th century CE.

4. They Are Sometimes Called “Branch Beans”

In China and Taiwan, edamame goes by the names “maodou” and “liaodou”, both of which translate to “branch bean” referring to where they grow. Meanwhile, the Japanese name “edamame” directly translates to “beans on branches”.

So whether you call them edamame or branch beans, the meaning behind the name reminds us they grow on the stalks of the soybean plant.

5. Almost All US Edamame Is Grown in the Midwest

While Asia remains the largest edamame producer overall, the United States now provides about 90% of edamame sold in North America. Key growing states include Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Iowa. Sweet corn farmers will sometimes rotate in edamame since it replenishes nitrogen in the soil that corn depletes.

6. They Peak in Late Summer

Edamame
Edamame by Charles Haynes is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 .

In the US, fresh edamame pods can be found in grocery stores generally between August, when they first become available, through October. Late summer is when American soybean crops reach maturity. However, thanks to innovations in harvesting and freezing methods, you can now find frozen edamame year-round.

7. They Have a Sweet, Grassy, Nutty Flavor

When eaten straight out of the pods, edamame beans have a distinct sweet, grassy aroma and nutty taste. Compared to their mature counterparts, the beans have a creamier consistency similar to a fava bean or English pea. Their shells tend to be slightly salty and crunchy meanwhile the interior of the bean itself is soft and smooth.

8. They Pack in Nutrients

Edamame are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and powerful plant compounds:

  • High in Vitamin K, Folate, Manganese, Thiamine & Riboflavin
  • Good source of Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus & Copper
  • Over 12% of Daily Fiber per cup
  • Nearly 9 grams of Protein per cup
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids
  • Isoflavones & Saponins also found in the beans may protect cells

So it’s no wonder they are considered an exceptionally healthy snack choice. Just one cup of edamame contains substantial amounts of daily nutrients in a low calorie package.

9. They Are Very High Protein for a Vegetable

Unlike most vegetables, edamame pack a hefty protein punch. With 8-10 grams of protein per cup, they contain as much protein as other high protein foods like eggs, chicken and fish.

In fact, edamame has the highest protein content among vegetables, lending credence to the idea that soy really is nature’s protein. This makes edamame an especially smart choice for those following vegan or plant-based diets.

10. They May Lower Cholesterol

Multiple studies on edamame suggest it may help reduce LDL “bad” cholesterol levels in the bloodstream. This is likely due to soy protein’s ability to bind with cholesterol to remove it from circulation.

The folic acid, fiber and plant sterols in soy may also play a role in lowering cholesterol. More research is still needed but adding edamame to your diet could support heart health.

11. They Are Naturally Gluten-Free

For those avoiding gluten, edamame makes for a safe and nutritious addition to any gluten-free diet. As they are beans and not grains, edamame pods don’t contain gluten at all, making them suitable for anyone with celiac disease or an intolerance.

12. They Are Often Served Salted in the Pod

Part of the fun experience of eating edamame is popping the salty, crunchy pods directly into your mouth and squeezing out the soft beans. The light saltiness forms a flavor contrast with the bean’s natural sweetness.

If buying them already shelled, you may want to steam them quickly with a bit of salt to bring back that signature salty-sweet balance edamame is known for.

13. Freezing Locks in Nutrition

Since fresh edamame has such as short season, most edamame sold has been previously frozen soon after harvesting. Luckily the freezing process preserves the vitamins and antioxidants in the beans.

In some cases, frozen edamame contains more nutrients than fresh since some loss can occur during the transportation of unfrozen pods.

14. They Are Very Easy to Cook

Preparing your edamame at home is simple. If using frozen pods:

  • Steam or boil for 4-5 minutes
  • Drain in a colander
  • Optionally sprinkle with salt

And that’s all it takes to enjoy crisp, nutritious edamame within minutes. Shelled edamame beans only take 2-3 minutes to heat through.

So grab a bag of this tasty superfood and get munching!

Key Takeaways: Edamame 101

To recap some of the top edamame highlights:

  • Green immature soybeans picked before hardening
  • Grown on bushy branches in fuzzy pods like peas
  • Originated in China but popularized by Japanese cuisine
  • Harvested in late summer with a sweet, nutty flavor
  • Very nutrient-dense with lots of protein, fiber & vitamins
  • May help lower cholesterol and are naturally gluten-free
  • Often served salted in the pod as a fun finger food
  • Extremely easy to find frozen and quick to prepare

So whether enjoyed as an appetizer, protein-packed snack or simple side dish, edamame offers a uniquely versatile, nutritious and delicious ingredient to add to your plate. Give this tasty superfood a try!

Frequently Asked Questions

What do edamame beans taste like?

Edamame has a sweet, grassy, nutty flavor and creamy texture when eaten straight from the pod. Their shells tend to be slightly salty and crunchy meanwhile the soft interior of the beans is smooth.

Are edamame healthy?

Yes! Edamame is very nutritious, packing high amounts of protein, fiber, vitamins K, C, and folate along with minerals like iron, phosphorus, and magnesium. They also may lower cholesterol.

How do you eat edamame correctly?

How do you eat edamame correctly?

Can you eat edamame raw?

Technically edamame can be eaten raw but they are typically boiled or steamed first to soften the texture. Raw beans would be very hard and tough to chew.

Are edamame gluten-free?

Yes, edamame beans are naturally 100% gluten free and safe for anyone with celiac disease or on a GF diet. As a bean, they do not contain gluten.


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