Iwate midori edamame (岩手みどり)

Of the over 400 varieties of edamame in Japan, most of them are “fast ripening”—that is, they are ready for harvest around 70 to 90 days after the seeds are sown. By comparison, most North American soybeans mature between 80 to 120 days. However, a few traditional slow ripening edamame varieties survive, and this week’s Iwate midori is one of them.

Iwate midori (Iwate is a prefecture in northern Japan, and “midori” means “green”) takes its time to mature, only reaching “edamame ripeness” after a leisurely 120 days. Moreover, it doesn’t like the wet, fecund weather of early spring, doing better under late cultivation. This makes Iwate midori a popular edamame of mid to late September and early October, when most other edamame varieties have disappeared from the fields and store shelves.

Because of the slow maturation, Iwate midori has a slightly deeper, subtler flavor than other edamame and a slightly higher protein content. The creamy, buttery taste lends itself well to the cooler days and heartier dishes of autumn. Edamame is known in Japan as “beer’s friend,” but this is one that may go equally well with a glass of deep red wine on the back porch on a cool October evening. Japanese also use Iwate midori to make a nutritious green tofu, as well as mousse, soymilk, and steamed beans. It is considered to be one of the healthiest soybean varieties.

In Japan it is said that locally grown food connects us to both a place and a time; in Iwate midori edamame, we can find the experience of an entire summer encapsulated in a bean.