When I first started trying to eat predominantly locally grown and produced food, I was astonished to discover that every bag of grocery store edamame was imported from China. When I founded Locavorious, I was determined to find local farmers growing this delicious, healthy vegetable, and fortuitously met Charles Fry on a local food online forum.
All of the Locavorious edamame comes from the vision and hard work of 5th generation farmer Charles Fry of Old Fort, Ohio. I had the opportunity to catch up with Charles last winter and learn about him and his favorite sweet beans. Charles graduated from U of M with a degree in biochemistry and spent 20 years as a technology entrepreneur. He also worked 2 years for the nonprofit Innovative Farmers of Ohio. These past few years he’s back on his family’s land and is determined to “bring edamame to the Midwest.” We are, after all, already growing soybeans.
Charles gave an analogy that aptly sums up how edamame compares to soybeans raised today throughout the US: “Edamame soybean is to field soybeans what sweet corn is to field corn,” Fry said. “The varieties are selected for large beans with high sugar content, and they are harvested at the peak of ripeness when fully sized and ready to pick.” Edamame farmers harvest the beans when they are still green, and treat them like table vegetables, and do not let the beans dry in the field. (Traditional US commodity soy beans used for oil and animal feed are allowed to dry in the field and harvested when yellow and dry.)
Edamame is a historical foundation crop in Asia. The word “edamame” in Japanese translates as “beans on the bush” or “twig bean”. In Chinese, young soybeans in the pod are known as maodoujia which translates as “hairy bean pod.” Charles validated my observation – virtually every frozen bag of edamame found in US grocery stores today is grown in China, except a few % from Taiwan. Statistically, only a fraction of a % of edamame is grown in the US. It is still such a niche crop that it falls under “other” in USDA categories, but US consumption of edamame in the US is growing rapidly. I was in California last week on vacation and got all excited when I spotted “Melissa’s” brand organic edamame in a grocery store….but it was imported.
ANYWAY – not our edamame! Thank you, Charles! Fry Farms started with a 2 acre test plot of edamame in 2004, and by 2008 they grew 1000 acres. In 2009 they grew 1000 acres and convinced their neighbors to start growing it too. In 2009 Charles and his father formed the American Sweet Bean Company, a growers’ co-operative endeavor to grow and process the beans….hopefully bringing us Midwestern, non-GMO, yummy edamame.
The easiest way to enjoy edamame is just to boil the frozen pods for ~ 3 minutes, drain, and then sprinkle them with salt. Shell them as you eat them, like peanuts.
Here’s a great couple of party dip recipes that will look and taste great for St. Paddy’s day. How about this for multicultural fusion – take a traditional Asian crop grown in the Midwest, turn it into a Mediterranean bean dip and serve it for an Irish holiday:
Edamame – Roasted Garlic Hummus
2 cups shelled, cooked edamame
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup tahini
1 t salt
3 cloves roasted garlic (or more)
2 – 3 T cold water
Put everything (except water) in food processor and process a ~ 2 minutes. Scrape sides and process some more. Add water as needed to achieve a creamy consistency.
And from my friend and Locavorious member Patti – a lovely green and vegan “Edamame Pate”
1 ¼ cups thawed shelled edamame
1/2 c walnuts
1/2 c mint leaves
1 green onion, chopped
1/2 t salt
3 T lemon juice + 3 T water
Put the edamame, nuts, leaves, onion and salt into your food processor and process it up. With the motor running, add 3T lemon juice and 3T water and blend until smooth.
Afterthought – edamame are nutritional rock stars. Check this out – 1 cup of shelled edamame beans has 17 g of protein, 8 g dietary fiber, 20% of the daily recommended amount of iron, 16 % of vitamin C, and contains only 189 calories and 8 g of fat.