In Japanese snack bars, edamame - green soybeans - are as popular as salted peanuts are in beer pubs around the West. You crack open the plump green shells and pop the cooked beans right into your mouth.
Edamame are tasty and loaded with nutrients - vitamins, protein, and calcium. And they have no cholesterol. You can buy podded soybeans at supermarkets, but seeds are easy to grow.
Choose a warm, sunny location protected from frost and wind. Amend the soil with compost; plant seeds 1 inch deep and 3 inches apart in rows 12 to 14 inches apart. (Green soybeans grow only about 2 feet tall and are naturally upright, so they can be planted closely.)
When seedlings have about five leaves, pile soil into a mound a few inches high around the stems to give them a bit of support. Keep soil moist but not soggy. Don't fertilize: It reduces yields.
When pods are plump and still green, in 75 to 90 days (depending on variety), pull up the whole plant, then pluck off pods. (They all ripen at the same time, so you won't be losing any crop.)
To prepare edamame, boil pods whole in lightly salted water until tender, about 10 minutes. Or add soy sauce to the water (about 1 tablespoon per quart of water) instead of salt. Pop the beans out of their shells to eat. Shelled beans can also be mixed into a stir-fry or added to salads.
SOURCE: Territorial Seed Company, Cottage Grove, OR (541/942-9547 or www.territorialseed.com).