Edamame, Green Soybeans

February 12, 2006

Edamame is a nutritious vegetable that’s popular with commercial farmers, but hasn’t caught on with the home gardener. That’s unfortunate because edamame, more commonly known as green soybeans, are easier to grow and more productive than the popular lima beans found in many backyard gardens.

Reasons to Grow Edamame in the Home Garden

Soybeans are touted for their nutritional value, and the fresh shelled beans are delicious as well as healthful. Farmers include soybeans in their crop rotations to harvest the dry beans, but also to help improve fertility by increasing the nitrogen levels in the soil.

You can grow edamame and receive the same nitrogen boosting benefits in the home garden. Just as when growing other types of beans, you’ll get higher yields and see more nitrogen produced in the soil if you apply nitrogen-fixing inoculant to the edamame seed at planting time.

The nitrogen-fixing bacteria comes in the form of a dry, black powder which is applied to the moistened edamame seeds just prior to planting them in the garden. Be sure to select a strain of bacteria inoculant that is identified for use on soybeans.

Soybean Planting and Cultivation

Edamame can be raised in conventional rows or be grown in raised beds. Plant the seed about one inch deep and six to eight inches apart.

Soybeans don’t require much attention while they are growing, just supply adequate moisture and control the growth of weeds. As with all beans, avoid handling or working around soybeans when they are wet to avoid spreading diseases among the plants.

The edamame pods grow in clusters that should be harvested while still green, as the beans become plump and fill out the pods. The fresh beans can be shelled like lima beans, or they can be cooked right in their pods by placing them in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes until tender.

Edamame Varieties

For dry soybeans, or if you’re growing for seed allow the pods to fully mature and dry on the plant until they are brittle. Popular edamame varieties include: Hakucho, Butterbean, Envy, Beer Friend, and Sayamusume.

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  • I’ve planted my first crop of edamame in one of my Earthbox planters and have been so excited at the prospect of fresh beans. They don’t seem to be thriving so far, however, and I’m a little worried. The Earthbox pretty much guarantees a regulated soil moisture level, but the leaves seem to be getting brittle. The temperature here in N. California has dipped down to 49 deg or so a few nights since I transplanted them, but I’d read they’re not too fussy about cold. Any thoughts?

  • Kenny Point

    Soybeans are not hardy and prefer warm soil temps but a low of 49 degrees shouldn’t damage the plants. What kind of soil did you use in the Earthbox, and did you apply a soybean inoculant to the seed when the edamames were planted? Did they take well to being transplanted, or is that when the problems started? If it’s only one or two of the older leaves that are affected I wouldn’t worry too much. Keep an eye on them, check the moisture levels, and hopefully the plans will do better as the weather warms.

  • Great Green Blog. Check out my green tips blog http://www.cipacs.org

  • Kathleen

    Good Morning,
    I’ve planted many edamame “seeds”. Less than half have sprouted and the small plants are surviving at best…. My other plants (tomatoes, carrots, greenbeans, straw/blue berries, herbs, and winter crops (except B-sprouts) all do well. Any suggestions?
    Kathleen in Novato, CA (SF Bay Area)

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Kathleen, you could try sprouting the edamame seeds indoors first, like you were growing sprouts and then carefully transplant them into the garden after they have germinated already.

  • MK

    We planted our seeds as directed. The plants grew to approximately 15″ or so and produced the pods accordingly. Then all of the sudden the pods stopped growing and the plants began to die. The pods are in their fuzzy stage of growth. We did not use a soybean inoculant. We live in the midwest where it does get very hot and humid. Do you have any suggestions for future growing? Thanks

  • Cathi Paxton

    This is our first time planting edamame. Our plants look very healthy, but I can’t see any blossoms or beans. We planted in June the same time as our green beans. Any tips?

  • Pam Callahan

    I planted in May and have a very green group of plants. As a matter of fact they tower over my tomato plants. I didn’t know they would get so tall! However, I have been watching anxiously for when I can harvest. How long should it take befor I can harvest? I have pods but they aren’t very plump. One place I read said just pull out plant and harvest by picking off the bean/pod. So that means just one harvest?

  • kathleen

    Pam- I’m so envious. I got three barely foot tall plants with a couple of pods each from planting about a dozen seeds….. in two separate plantings…not sure it’s worth boiling water. Congratulations!

  • Pam

    Thanks! !ut I am hoping to actually have a crop. So far just plants and tiny pods. How long should I wait before I harvest

  • kathleen

    My pods look ready to “harvest” but who cares? There are only about eight of them. To continue my edamame saga… this morning- all the leaves have been nibbled away. But, yes, I am going to try again next year! Please let us know how yours (Pam) turn out.

  • Susan

    Like Pam, we have large plants flush with may pods (we live near Lake Ontario), but the pods aren’t plump yet. How long until we can harvest them?

  • Kenny Point

    I can’t offer a good prediction, it varies depending on the variety and weather conditions but the pods grow slower than green beans but still fairly quickly. If you have pods now they should plump up within a week or two. You’ll eat the beans inside the pod so you don’t want to pick them before they fill out.

  • linda baltezore, eureka, ca.

    My edamame plants look good, they are about 14 inches high now and have not bloomed yet, but the leaves are getting paler, sort of yellow-green. What do they need? Our coastal temps here run between 70 degrees and lows of 45 degrees. What can I put on them for fertilizer?

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Linda, did you inoculate your seed with a nitrogen fixer before you planted them? I have had success growing soybeans in average soil without much in the way of supplemental feeding but I do inoculate the seed before planting. How much rainfall have the plants received? At this stage you could try spraying them with a liquid fish/kelp fertilizer if you believe they need to be fed. Good luck.

  • sabrina

    “Popular edamame varieties include: Hakucho, Butterbean, Envy, Beer Friend, and Sayamusume.”

    What are the differences between these varieties? Is there a type that the beans are bigger than other type? Because I noticed that there are different size beans in the market when buy frozen.

    I saw both Butterbean and Envy seeds in the store but they don’t really say much about it. I live in N. California. Thanks,

  • Heather

    Where can I purchase endamame seeds in south africa.

  • Anna

    Hi Heather, I have the same question – where to buy edamame seeds in SA?
    Do you have any leads?

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