From Eda-what-me to Edamame

It seems that everyone’s eating it now. It went from being a relatively unknown food item to a popular appetizer and snack option at the dinner table.

Edamame (pronounced ed-ah-mommy), literally meaning, “twig bean,” is a food dish made from immature soybeans. The soybeans are boiled or steamed, prepared with salt and eaten as finger food after splitting the pod and eating the beans inside. It’s a favorite in Asian cuisine.

Edamame Facts (Farm World)
  • Introduced nationally in the 1930s as a value-added crop to address food scarcity
  • It has been estimated that the U.S. could produce 32,000 acres of the crop to meet demand domestically
  • National production is limited to fewer than 5,000 acres nationwide, mostly in Ohio, Kentucky, California, Illinois and Indiana
  • Net returns can average $400 to $1,300 per acre in the U.S.
  • 90 to 120-day growing season
  • Rotational crop
Though in “infant stages” in the U.S., as quoted in a recent Ohio’s Country Journal story, a new herbicide designed specifically for edamame gives the crop significant yield potential.

Dual Magnum has recently been approved as the registered herbicide for edamame.

“Although soybean dominates the Midwest agricultural landscape, nearly all of the edamame we consume is imported from Asia,” said Marty Williams, a weed scientist with USDA-ARS and the University of Illinois. “One of the reasons why this occurs is because there have been few pesticides registered for use on edamame, limiting domestic, commercial production.”

As consumers are becoming increasingly health conscious, edamame production is foreseen as very profitable for American soybean farmers.

There are multiple nutritional advantages to eating edamame – carbohydrates, protein, dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and micronutrients, particularly folic acid, manganese and vitamin K – are just a few.

Because of edamame’s increasing popularity, and because 90 percent of domestic edamame consumption is from Asian-imported edamame, New Jersey’s Rutgers University is home to a research project working to advance the yield rates of U.S. edamame.

The “IR-4 Project” is a cooperative program of the USDA and the SAES, with the principle goal of developing data to support and expedite regulatory clearances of newer, reduced risk pest-control products for specialty crop growers.

Pest management tools are needed to maintain a safe and dependable supply of fruits and vegetables, while allowing U.S. crop producers to compete in global markets.

“I have received a large number of calls requesting pest control products for this commodity throughout the past year, probably more than I have received for any other commodity in the past 20 years,” said IR-4 Project’s associate director Dan Kunkel. “Fortunately, data from other legume crops can be used to support registrations on edamame and therefore, a number of new uses have been added to product labels recently, or should be available soon to address grower needs.”

As edamame becomes more recognized and requested by the public, it will be interesting to note the change of production rates in Ohio and nationally.

Have you eaten edamame? Do you know an edamame farmer? If you farm, have you ever thought about growing edamame?

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