‘Consumers are asking’ for edamame, soybean growers find

BON AIR—Edamame is well on its way to becoming a protein option for some Virginians.

Patricia Stansbury grows the edible soybeans at her Epic Gardens farm in Chesterfield County and sells seeds to other growers across the state. She said edamame is catching on with consumers.

“I’m finding that retailers are looking for it now, because consumers are asking for it,” she said. Stansbury sells the soybeans to area grocery stores and restaurants and at farmers’ markets.

People like edamame “because it tastes good and has a lot of nutritional value,” she said.

A cup of beans in the pod or a half-cup of shelled beans contains only 120 calories. The 9 grams of fiber it contains is about the same can be derived from four slices of whole-wheat bread or 4 cups of steamed zucchini. It contains 10 percent of the daily value for iron, which is about as much as a 4-ounce roasted chicken breast—a high amount for plant food.

Studies show that soy protein lowers blood cholesterol, which in turn lowers the risk of heart disease. And soy isoflavones, which are antioxidants, decrease artery damage because they protect the cells of the arteries from oxidation.

And edamame tastes good, Stansbury said. When she offers samples at farmers’ markets, “people really like it; especially children. They like squeezing it out of the pod.”

She started growing the protein source around six years ago after trying it at a party. “I ate some and really liked it, and everybody at the party really liked it too,” she said. She has worked with researchers at Virginia State University on growing and marketing different varieties as part of the school’s soybean breeding program.

“Most edamame is eaten straight from the pod as a hearty, healthy snack, and it’s great finger food,” Stansbury said. Simply boil or steam them unshelled for 5 to 10 minutes, and then sprinkle them with sea salt. Squeeze the beans from the pods.

Or you can shell them and add them to salads, soups and stir fries. The following recipe from Epic Gardens can be served hot or cold; as a side dish; or over rice as a main dish.

Edamame Medley

2 cups fresh edamame, cooked and shelled
2 cups fresh sweet corn, steamed briefly and cut off cob OR 2 cups frozen corn kernels
1 sweet red pepper, chopped into small pieces
3 tablespoons vinaigrette-style salad dressing
fresh parsley, chopped, with a sprig or two reserved for garnish

Toss together all ingredients until coated. Taste, and adjust seasoning. Garnish with fresh herbs and, if available, edible flowers.

To cook edamame, bring water to boil in a pot, with or without a steamer basket. Wash and sort fresh edamame pods, sprinkle lightly with salt and cook for about 7 minutes, then plunge into cold water. Drain and shell the beans (The pods can be composted).

You can use frozen edamame as well; just follow the package instructions. Watch for Virginia-grown edamame late this summer.

Contact Stansbury at 804-617-6312.

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