Edamame (eh-dah-mah-may) are sweet young things — sweet, young soybeans, to be exact. And they are perhaps the world's easiest and most nutritious snack food. Popped from the pod directly into your mouth, the slick orbs have a pleasing toothiness, followed by a sweet, buttery taste that makes it impossible to eat just one. In fact, in Japan, where I first enjoyed them, edamame take the place of peanuts, and come to the table as a salty snack in bars.
Soy Fresh from the Farm
Although soy has become an ever-greater presence in the grocery store aisles, the fresh green soybean, whole and unadulterated, is still relatively rare on our plates. Yet nothing could be simpler to prepare, or more fun to eat, so now is the time to seek them out at your local farmers market.
Simplicity and Nutrition – Two Peas in a Pod
In addition to healthy amounts of vitamins A and B, edamame have lots of protein, calcium, and fiber. More importantly, they have many phytochemicals that have only recently begun to be appreciated. If you read health or nutrition columns, you know that soybeans are full of a class of phytochemicals called isoflavones. The research is not definitive, but suggests that these isoflavones may reduce the risk of cancer, lower cholesterol, and help prevent heart disease and osteoporosis. They may also significantly alleviate the symptoms of menopause.
Yet when you subject soybeans to intense processing (soy milk and so on), you lose a lot of isoflavones. When you get edamame straight from your local farmer, you can be sure that they are bursting with all the right stuff. But you don’t need to eat them for any reason other than that they taste wonderful.
1 pound fresh soybeans
2 Tb salt
2 quarts water
1. Put a big pot of salted water on the stove on high heat.
2. If your soybeans are still on the stem, sit down while the water is coming to a boil, and strip the pods off the stems. (The beans grow from the woody branches of the tall soybean bush, and its name in Japanese combines the characters for twig and bean: 枝豆.) When the water is boiling, throw the soybeans in, pods and all. Boil for about 5-7 minutes.
3. Drain and place in a bowl. Add another tablespoon of salt and toss the still steaming beans.
4. Let the beans cool to room temperature. Pick up a pod, hold it close to your lips, and gently squeeze the beans into your mouth. It’s easy, it’s fun, and it’s incredibly good for you.
Right now, while edamame are in season, buy a large amount, cook them up in a big pot, eat some, and put the rest into ziplock bags. Then you can take a bag out anytime, and put the edamame in the microwave or into boiling water for an instant taste of summer.