Everything You Need to Know about the Humble Edamame Bean

Have you seen all the hype about edamame but you haven’t a clue what it is or whether you should add it to your diet? Whether you’ve tried it at your local Japanese restaurant or it’s never passed your lips before, we’ll tell you all you need to know about edamame, from what it is to how to create delicious edamame recipes.

What exactly is edamame?

While it sounds like some strange vegetable, edamame are actually young soybeans that are usually eaten while they’re still in the pod. Unlike mature soybeans, edamame beans are soft and edible, and tasty of course. You may also buy hulled edamame, where the young beans have been taken out of the pod. This kind of edamame is great for tossing into a salad or perking up a rice dish. The pods are about 1.5-2 inches long and can be either straight or slightly curved. Inside you’ll find a single row of 2-5 light green, smooth seeds. Once boiled, the seeds take on a soft, creamy texture and a taste that’s similar to lima beans. However, it’s important to note that the pod isn’t edible and should not be eaten.

How is edamame usually used?

Most people have their first taste of edamame at a Japanese restaurant, usually as an appetiser. It’s particularly popular with vegetarians and vegans, or people who just prefer to eat a healthy diet, particularly as it contains a good dose of low-fat soy protein. This makes it a great way for non-meat eaters to get their daily allowance.

What should I look for when buying them?

You’ll find fresh edamame bean pods in local vegetable markets and grocery stores. Check that the pods are plump and firm, and avoid any pods that appear to be shrunken, yellow or shrivelled. Store fresh pods in the refrigerator and use within 2-3 days. You can also buy frozen edamame at grocery stores.

How do I cook edamame?

If your edamame is fresh and still in their pods, either boil them in salted water or put them in a steamer and sprinkle with a little sea salt once cooked. This will normally take between 5-6 minutes, although some suggest that they should be boiled for 20 minutes. They can then be eaten either hot or cold. If you’ve bought frozen edamame, you simply cook them as above for a couple of minutes.

Note: Edamame should always be cooked thoroughly before eating.

What’s the nutritional lowdown on edamame?

As we’ve already said they contain protein, but they also contain carbohydrates, that all important fibre, a number of essential amino acids and of course they’re low in fat and sugar and contain no cholesterol at all. They’re also a great source of minerals, including iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, zinc, phosphorus, copper and manganese, plus they pack a punch with the vitamins too, such as Vitamin C, riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin E. Shelled, they weigh in at 110 calories for a 100 gram portion.

What are the health benefits of edamame?

As edamame are a good source of protein and fibre, they have many benefits for our health including a boosted immune system, improved bone health, improved cardiovascular health, plus they’re good for helping to manage your weight, and go a long way to ensuring a healthy digestive system. However, you should avoid eating edamame if you have an allergy to soy.

How do I eat edamame?

If your beans are still in the pod, put the pod in your mouth and squeeze or bite the beans from the pod. Don’t eat the pod! You may wonder why you can’t simply remove the beans from the pod without putting it in your mouth. The simple answer is that you’ve gone to all the trouble to add salt when you cook them, and the salt adds to the flavour and the overall experience of eating it. You may want to have a dish or plate handy for all the empty pods.

Edamame can also be added to a range of recipes from snacks to main meals. Once cooked, the beans can be used either shelled or unshelled to make a range of dishes that are both flavoursome and wholesome. For example, a simple snack can be quickly prepared by adding sea-salt and rice vinegar to unshelled edamame that’s already been cooked. This can be eaten straight away or chilled in the fridge for later. Other flavourings and spices, such as chilli, can also be used to pep up the taste and, if you love the combination of garlic and parmesan, you won’t be able to get enough of this delicious snack.

The cooked beans are also a great addition to fresh salads to boost up the protein levels and to add a mild buttery flavour, plus they can be whipped up into a spicy dip or salsa to accompany your main meal. And speaking of main meals, they work perfectly in stir fries too.

Try some edamame today

So if you’ve never tried edamame, broaden your horizons and pick some up from your local vegetable market or grocery store. Or if you’d prefer them prepared for you, why not give the edamame at Kobe Jones a go. They’re tasty, they’re nutritious and they’re easy to incorporate into your diet whether you’re a vegan, vegetarian or a meat-eater.

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