This East Asian native has been a vital source of protein for over 5,000 years.
Edamame, or soybeans, were first grown in China but the word “Edamame” is Japanese, meaning “branched bean.” Today soybeans are grown both for their sweet, delicately-flavored seeds and for other uses including tofu, miso, soy milk, and soy sauce. Soybean crops are also used widely for animal feed as well as nitrogen-fixing cover crops.
The soybean is the only vegetable to contain all nine essential amino acids, making it a source of complete protein. In fact, soybeans can produce up to fifteen times more protein per acre than land set aside for meat production. Other nutrients include antioxidants, phytochemicals, essential fatty acids, calcium, and B vitamins.
Fresh soybeans should have bright green pods with healthy-looking furry down. Avoid those that look dried, withered, or whose seeds rattle when the pods are shaken. Refrigerate in a ventilated plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Whole pods can also be frozen.