Edamame: A Great Addition to Your Garden

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Bowl of edamameWith warmer weather here, gardens are ready to be planted. It’s important to plan to provide the best yield results – for this year and beyond. Many people know the importance of crop rotation, but it’s difficult to achieve when many of the most popular horticultural crops are in the same family, such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. With these crops, it is best to rotate in something unfamiliar to the local insect population (in order to avoid a buildup in pest pressures) and to rejuvenate the soil. This year, why not give edamame a try.

Edamame is the Japanese term for fresh, green soybeans. Edamame is the same species as field grown soybeans, Glycine max, but has been bred to be enjoyed in its green pod stage – as opposed to the dried beans that are combined from the field. This is similar to sweet corn – which is harvested when the ears are still immature (and the kernels soft) and field corn, harvested when the cobs have fully dried on the plant.

Edamame is easy to grow and can be direct seeded into the ground or container anytime throughout the first few months of summer. It is reasonably tolerant to many of the insects and diseases that affect the other crops in your garden and requires just a minimal amount of care. Edamame, just like its field-grown cousin the soybean, is a legume, making it an ideal crop to build the fertility of your soil. Legumes create symbiotic relationships with soil-bound bacteria and transform nitrogen from the air into a solid form available to the plant and the microbiome in the soil. Rotating edamame into the garden will help provide nutrients this year and for the next round of planting as it leave excess nitrogen.

Many different varieties of edamame are available online and through favorite gardening catalogs. Seeds are typically hard to find in stores due to the unfamiliar nature of the crop. With a relatively short growing time of 80 days, edamame is ready after just a few months of growing. Freshly picked edamame can be easily frozen in food-grade plastic bags, keeping it ready for eating year round.

This season, get into the sun and try out a few edamame plants to see how they fit into your system. Creating a diverse garden will increase your chances of success and introduce you to what may be a new favorite vegetable. For more information on edamame or any other gardening questions, contact the Cooperative Extension at 336.318.6000.