What is edamame?

Edamame is a variety of green soybeans. They have long been popular in Japan. They have a nutty, sweet flavor and creamy yet slightly crunchy flavor. Boiled and salted edamame eaten out of the pod are a classic summer treat in Japan. In Niigata prefecture, a variety of edamame called “chamame” (literally, “tea bean”) is grown; it is considered one of the most delicious varieties in all of Japan. We grow only “chamame” from Niigata.

Boiled edamame is rich in Vitamin C, folate, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, iron, calcium, potassium, protein, and fiber.

The most common way to eat edamame is to boil them (about 4 minutes) in salted water, drain well and cool (with a fan or by dousing in cold water), and then sprinkle a little more salt over the pods. You can squeeze the beans from the pods straight into your mouth or hand--the pods are inedible. Cooked shelled beans are delicious with a little butter or olive oil, salt and pepper. You can add cooked, shelled edamamae to soups, casseroles, stir-fries, salads, or home-baked bread.

History of edamame

Rice has been the main staple in the Japanese diet and a cornerstone of Japanese culture since its introduction from China in Yayoi period (5th century BC.) For centuries, meat eating was all but prohibited due to Buddhist strictures, yet during this same time the population of Japan grew more quickly than Europe. The key to the success of this Spartan diet is the soybean. Rice, while a nutritional powerhouse among grains, is missing the essential amino acid lysine, abundant in soy.

Soybeans were first cultivated in Japan in the first century AD, and although they are the basis of some of Japan’s essential traditional foods—soy sauce, miso, tofu, natto—they have never really been a major crop in Japan. In feudal times, farmers grew them on the narrow, raised ridges separating rice paddies for their own consumption as a critical nutritional supplement. While the rice paddies belonged to the feudal lords, the narrow ridges between them “belonged” to the farmers. In Japanese, these ridges are called aze; an alternate name for soybeans is “aze mame” or “ridge beans.” This practice continues even today in rural areas, and the observant visitor can find patches of soybeans and edamame scattered among the ripening rice.

The word “edamame” first appears in Japanese records during the Heian period (between 794 and 1185 AD), where according to some accounts it was used as a special food for festivals and celebrations. During the Edo period, edamame fully became a food for common people, and edamame vendors would carry loads of them on their backs, selling them to customers in the street. Customers purchased the fresh boiled edamame and walked around eating them as a portable snack—a kind of samurai fast food.

The word edamame means literally “branch bean.” This refers to the fact that one of the earliest ways to eat edamame was to boil them on the branch as is. Even today, edamame is unique among beans in that it is often sold still on the branches in Japanese supermarkets. It is believed that this is the freshest way to sell edamame—and in the future, we would like to try this, too, at the farmers’ markets.

Today, edamame is known in Japan as beer’s best friend, and one of the most popular “otsumami” (drinking snacks). Go into any bar, izakaya, or traditional restaurant in Japan in the summer and the first thing that will arrive at your table is a small bowl of edamame. Boiled, salted edamame and a glass of cold, draft beer make an invincible duo to combat the heat and humidity of July and August in Japan. Although edamame goes well with most any alcohol, there has been a direct correlation between the popularity of beer (introduced in Japan in the 1880s) and edamame sales. Edamame is actually a nutritionally ideal snack when imbibing: it is rich in Vitamins B1 and C, both of which help break down alcohol, and it contains methionine, an amino acid which helps protect the liver from toxicity damage. The sweetness of edamame combats the slightly bitter aftertaste of beer, and the physical process of popping the edamame out of the pod and eating it provides a short repose from drinking. The distinctly Japanese rhythm of drinking and pod-popping is ergonomically satisfying, and may provide the perfect snacking pace—not as time-consuming as hulling a peanut, but slower than stuffing your mouth with chips or other fatty finger foods. We think it would be difficult to find a healthier, more heart healthy snack for any occasion, whether or not alcohol is involved.

Echigo Farm's edamame varieties

We specialize in only traditional, non-GMO Japanese varieties of edamame.

"iwate midori" autumn edamame

"enrei" a soy masterpiece

"echigo honey"

"banshaku chamame"

"otsuna hime" stylish princess