How to Grow Edamame in Your Backyard
Edamame is not yet a common site in backyard gardens in America, but it is quickly becoming more popular. As more people become aware of the nutritional value and great taste of these green soybeans, more backyard gardeners are looking into how to grow edamame in their vegetable gardens.
If you live in San Diego County, Riverside County, Orange County or the surrounding areas, edamame might be a particularly good crop for you to consider. Not only is this a unique addition to your garden, but edamame can do quite will in two things Southern California has plenty of: drought conditions and clay soil.
Before we go into how to grow edamame in your garden, it is important to note that edamame is not the same thing as the soybeans grown for livestock feed. It is also not the same thing used to make the many soy-based products you can find at the grocery store, such as tofu, miso, tempeh or soy burgers. Soybeans used for these purposes have been allowed to fully ripen and mature. Edamame is picked when it is younger — generally being harvested around just 35 days after the plants flower. This means that edamame beans are softer and sweeter than soybeans.
How to Grow Edamame: Planting Green Soybeans
Your edamame will do best in a spot in your garden that has well-draining soil and gets full sun. If possible, test your soil and pick a spot (or amend it) to provide your edamame with slightly acidic soil with lots of organic matter, such as compost, mixed in. You will likely find that raised garden beds are easier to work with for this and other crops, particularly since it makes it easier to achieve the preferred soil quality and to control the conditions in which your plants are grown.
You can grow green soybeans from seeds or purchase seedlings at your local garden center to transplant into your garden. Edamame is definitely a warm-weather plant, so if you live in an area that gets frost, you should start your seeds indoors and transplant them into your garden beds once the weather warms up. If planting seeds in the soil, you can start by planting about four inches apart in rows that are about two feet apart. If you are planting seedlings, space them about one foot to 18 inches apart to get the best harvest per plant. Green soybeans can also grow well when planted closer together, so that is an option if you have limited space.
How to Grow Edamame: Tending to Your Plants
As with most crops, you will need to regularly pull weeds, add a layer of mulch or compost around the plants and water frequently until the plants are established. Once your plants are established, you should be able to water once or twice per week, depending on the weather. Simply check the soil and give your edamame water whenever it is dry.
Since these are bushy plants, it is a good idea to use tomato cages or stakes to provide support as they grow.
How to Grow Edamame: Harvesting and Storing
All of the pods on an edamame plant will be ready to harvest at the same time. Keep an eye on the pods when you are getting close to 35 days after flowering, since you want to be sure to pick them while they are still young and tender. You will be looking for the pods to be plump and a vibrant green.
Edamame does not keep well, so you will want to harvest it close to the time it will be eaten, if possible. You will enjoy the best flavor and nutritional value if you eat your edamame the same day that you harvest it, but you can generally keep it in the refrigerator for two to three days, if needed.
If your harvest is too large to be consumed within a few days, you can blanch your beans in the pods and freeze them for future use.
Photo Credits (in order of appearance): morgueFile, thesuccess; morgueFile, rikahi; Wikimedia Commons/Tammy Green; Wikimedia Commons/Kanko