Skip to main content

Edamame Season Underway

Late last year the farmer's finished building three small greenhouses just south of what was then the chestnut orchard. Fairly simple affairs made of veneer and metal framing in comparison to their much larger and electronically-thermostated cousins right next door, these little houses proved cozy enough through the later winter months to be a good home for edamame.

Perhaps one of the quintessential Japanese foods, edamame are delightfully simple to prepare and wonderfully delicious. On the menu at every izakaya and served up almost without asking when in season, their salty selves are a perfect companion with beer. I revel in the additional fact that they are relatively healthy (off-setting the unhealthy bits of beer), and the shells make good compost fixings. Edamame (soy beans) are also the same bean (daizu) that miso and soy sauce are made from. Theoretically, I could use the beans I'm growing now in my garden (and mostly imagining with beer) to make either of those, tofu, or natto even. And while there are a number of different heirloom varieties in existence in Japan (Takashi Watanabe of Toziba, a fascinating farming non-profit focused on the heirloom soy bean, estimates Japan is home to hundreds of varieties tailored to their climates, regions, and grower's tastes), only a small number of those are still grown. According to Watanabe, less than 20-percent of the beans making Japan's tofu, soy sauce, and miso are grown in-country.

The edamame pictured here, though, while not an heirloom variety were grown here in Tokyo. The plan all along was to plant edamame ahead of schedule. The seeds went in the ground perhaps just after we returned from America, and were carefully shepherded along until a few days ago when we began harvesting in earnest. Big, fat, fuzzy beans dangle from the stems, and it's nigh on impossible on these hot days to not see them already sitting in a bowl before me accompanied by a lovely tall glass of beer. We pull up the entire plant, cut off the roots, and then bundle them into "bouquets" that are subsequently dunked in cool water before heading off to the store where they fetch a nice little sum. Or going in my bike basket to land in my kitchen where they get a good hot bath, a salty rub down, and then munched while still nearly too hot to handle.


1 Bundle of edamame, removed from the stems

1 pan of boiling water


Bring the water to a good rolling boil and then dump in the edamame. (Don't splash. It will hurt.) Put the lid back on, and let the water return to a good boil for about 5 minutes or so. Drain. Pop in another bowl, sprinkle with salt as liberally as your doctor will allow. Serve hot or cold, and do your best to get your fair share and then some.


Anjuli said…
oh yes I do miss these!!!!
I had no idea how good they were fresh until we moved here. We used to get them in a CSA in Illinois, but I don't think I ever really got the knack of making them. It's not hard, I was just inattentive. :)
Tom said…
Wonderful story. It's hard to describe how wonderful they are fresh, but you've done the job here. Cheers!

Thanks ever so much, Tom. Much to my sadness, the harvest is basically done at the farm already. The price to pay for early planting is an early finish. Luckily, I've got a nice little bundle coming along in the garden still!

Popular posts from this blog

Finding Heirloom Seeds in Japan

Drying pods of heirloom Hutterite Soup Beans. Since moving to Japan eight years ago, one of my greatest challenges as a farmer-gardener has been to find heirloom or open-pollinated seeds. The majority of seeds available are not GMO (genetically modified organisms) as Japan, at this point, doesn't accept this material. Most seeds, though, are nearly all F1 varieties. Heirloom and F1 Varieties In plant breeding, F1 is the name given to the first generation of a cross between two true breeding parents. For example, if I decide to cross an Amish Paste Tomato with another heirloom variety tomato such as Emmy, in hopes of getting a gold paste tomato, the resulting generation of fruit is F1. In order to get that tomato of my culinary dreams, I'll need to choose members of that first generation that are headed in a direction I like - early ripening, medium-sized fruit, good taste - and save their seeds. I'll plant them and repeat the process again and again over time unti

Satoimo: One of Japan's Favorite Slimy Things

Satoimo in all their hairy glory. This post first appeared in slightly different form on Garden to Table as part of the 2012  Blogathon . The website has since moved on to the ether, but the post is still a good one. After all, people here are still eating satoimo on a daily basis, and many others are just seeing these little potato-like objects for the first time. Enjoy! Satoimo is one of Japan's odder vegetables. Under it's rough, slightly furry skin is white flesh that is a little bit slimy even raw, and with a gentle nutty flavor.* Baked, grilled, steamed with dashi, or deep-fried satoimo stands well on its own or paired up with other vegetables and meats in a wide variety of soups and stews . (The leaves are also edible.) Satoimo stores well, and like any root crop worth the effort, stocks are just running low on this household favorite as the farmers in my area of Tokyo get ready to put a new crop in the ground in May. I cannot say I was a fan of this l

Goma Ai Shingiku - Sesame and Chrysanthemum Greens

Last week I had the pleasure of helping some friends work in their parents garden not too far away. Tucked behind the house, the garden sits on a former house lot. When it came up for sale about five years ago, my friend's father jumped at the chance. Open land in Tokyo can be hard to find and expensive, but for a retired professional looking for a little spot to till in the city it was an opportunity to good to pass up. Now, it is a garden to envy. As we came through the gate rose, lily, and peony blooms greeted us with great shouts of color while rows of vegetables stood tidily at attention on the sunny center stage. Small fruit trees along with one of the biggest sansho trees I've seen yet stood quietly here and there. Near waist-high sweet corn, bushy young potato plants, cherry tomatoes, eggplants, and beans were preparing their summer fruits, while a handful of still quite luscious looking winter vegetables like komatsuna, mizuna, and kabu held one last ro