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Edamame: How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Edamame (Soybeans) | The Old Farmer's Almanac

Edamame

Botanical Name
Glycine max
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How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Edamame (Soybeans)

The Editors
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Originally from East Asia, edamame is a relatively new crop in North American gardens—especially for home gardeners. It requires a growing season of 10 weeks. Here’s how to plant and grow edamame at home!

About Edamame

Originating from Asia, edamame (pronounced eh-dah-MAH-may) is the name for young, green soybeans that are picked early in the green pod stage before they harden. (Once edamame pods mature, they become dried beans which are used to make soy products like tofu and soymilk.)

After the edamame pods are harvested and steamed in water, they are eaten by squeezing the beans out (2 to 3 per pod), popping directly into the mouth. They have a sweet, nutty, creamy flavor and are very high in protein.

Edamame is not a common crop, but has been gaining ground in North America in recent years. It’s a low-maintenance crop similar to bush beans, but often has a higher yield. As a legume, it also offers the same soil-health benefits as beans—specifically, it helps to fix nitrogen into the soil, making the soil more nutrient rich for later crops. This makes it a great vegetable to practice crop rotation with!

Planting

Edamame is a frost-tender vegetable that can be planted in late spring in a location with full sun (at least 6 hours) and average soil fertility. Two to 4 weeks before planting, dig 1 to 2 inches of compost into the garden bed to provide the plants with sufficient nutrients. 

Avoid planting edamame where legumes (beans, peas) were grown in the previous season. This helps to prevent the continuation of diseases and pests, as well as the depletion of nutrients in the soil.

When to Plant Edamame

  • Edamame requires a growing season of about 10 to 12 weeks, depending on the variety. (See Recommended Varieties, below, for more information.)
  • Direct-sow seeds in the late spring safely after your last spring frost, when the soil is workable and warmed to at least 55°F (13°C). Air temperatures should have reached at least 60°F (16°C).  Don’t rush it. Planting in cold wet soil can cause soybean seeds to rot.
  • Stagger sowing times; each plant’s pods handily mature all at the same time. For a second harvest, plant again about 10 days later.

How to Plant Edamame

  • Sow seeds ¼ to ½ of an inch deep, 2 to 4 inches apart, in rows 2 feet apart.
  • Germination takes 1 to 2 weeks.
Growing
  • Thin seedlings to 6 inches apart when the plants are 4 inches tall.
  • Weed shallowly to avoid disturbing the plants’ roots.
  • Apply compost, leaves, or hay mulch to control weeds and retain moisture.
  • Water regularly. Edamame tolerates some drought, but yields may suffer.
  • Like bush beans, edamame plants reach 1 to 3 feet tall and do not typically require staking.

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Harvesting
  • For the best flavor, harvest edamame pods in the evening when they are 2 to 3 inches long, bright green, and plump. Snap or cut (do not tear) pods off plants. Or uproot the entire plant.
  • Yellow pods and/or leaves indicate that the peak of flavor and texture has passed.
  • Harvest dry soybeans when the plant and leaves are dry and brown and the seeds inside the pods rattle. Pull up the plants and hang them in a dark, dry area until the pods are completely dry.

How to Store Edamame

  • Store fresh edamame in an airtight container or plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Use as soon as possible.
  • To freeze edamame pods or shelled beans, blanch them, plunge them in ice water, and then drain. Store in an airtight bag or container in the freezer.
  • Store dried beans in an airtight container in a dark, cool, dry location.
Wit and Wisdom
  • Edamame originated in China more than 2,000 years ago. There, it’s called mao dou, which means “hairy bean.”
  • Today, edamame is commonly thought of as a Japanese vegetable. In Japanese, edamame means “beans on a branch.”
  • During the Civil War, soldiers used dried soybeans as “coffee berries” to brew a coffee-like drink.
  • Edamame is a complete protein source and the only vegetable that contains all nine essential amino acids!
Pests/Diseases

Edamame Pests and Diseases

Pest/Disease Type Symptoms Control/Prevention
Mexican bean beetles Insect

“Lacey,” skeletonized foliage; dark holes on bean pods

Handpick; purchase and release beneficial wasp Pediobius foveolatus when larvae observed; destroy severely infested plants; use row covers

Powdery mildew Fungus

Typically, white spots on upper leaf surfaces expand to flour-like coating over entire leaves; foliage may yellow/die; distortion/stunting of leaves/flowers

Destroy infected leaves or plants; choose resistant varieties; plant in full sun, if possible; ensure good air circulation; spray plants with 1 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in 1 quart water; destroy crop residue

Root-knot nematodes Nematode

Typically, roots “knotty” or galled; plants stunted/yellow/wilted

Destroy crop residue, including roots; choose resistant varieties; solarize soil; add aged manure/compost; disinfect tools; till in autumn; rotate crops

Stinkbugs Insect

Yellow/white blotches on leaves; scarred, dimpled, or distorted pods; shriveled seeds; eggs, often keg-shape, in clusters on leaf undersides

Destroy crop residue; handpick (bugs emit odor, wear gloves); destroy eggs; spray nymphs with insecticidal soap; use row covers; weed; till soil in fall

White mold Fungus

Pale gray, “water-soaked” areas on stems, leaves, and other plant parts that enlarge and develop white, cottony growth, later with black particles; bleached areas; crowns/fruit rot; plants wilt/collapse

Destroy infected plants; ensure good air circulation; water in morning; weed; destroy crop residue; rotating crops on 5-year or longer cycle may help

Whiteflies Insect

Sticky “honeydew” (excrement); sooty, black mold; yellow/silver areas on leaves; wilted/stunted plants; distortion; adults fly if disturbed; some species transmit viruses

Remove infested leaves/plants; use handheld vacuum to remove pests; spray water on leaf undersides in morning/evening to knock off pests; monitor adults with yellow sticky traps; spray with insecticidal soap; invite beneficial insects and hummingbirds with native plants; weed; use reflective mulch

Wireworms Insect

Seeds hollowed; seedlings severed; stunting/wilting; roots eaten

Trap by digging 2- to 4-inch-deep holes every 3 to 10 feet, fill with mix of germinating beans/corn/peas or potato sections as bait, cover with soil or a board, in 1 week uncover and kill collected wireworms; sow seeds in warm soil for quick germination; provide good drainage; remove plant debris; rotate crops

Cooking Notes

How to Eat Edamame

Boil the pods in salted water, about five to six minutes until tender.

Or, steam your edamame by placing an inch of water in a pot and bring it to a boil. Place the edamame in a steam basket or colander and cover the pot for five to ten minutes. Then salt as desired.

Once cooled enough, raise the edamame pod to your lips, squeeze the bean out of its salted pod, and pop it directly into the mouth!

Enjoy as a healthy snack. Or, add shelled edamame to salads, rice, pasta, and other dishes; it adds flavor, a bright green color, and low-fat protein.

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