For thousands of years the soybean has been a valuable food source in China and Japan. Although America is the world’s leading producer (35 percent) of this nutrient-rich legume, most domestic consumers have yet to fully discover the “joy of soy.” Delicious alternatives to a myriad of milk products found in the supermarket—ice cream, yogurt, milk and margarine, all derived from a simple bean—lose nothing in the translation from cow to plant in terms of taste and nutrition. Indeed, extensive research conducted by Cornell University confirms the role of a plant-based diet as being healthier for humans and their environment as opposed to literally eating “high on the hog.”
Almost a virtual unknown in the West, edamame is winning stomachs and minds with its convenience, long list of essential nutrients and adaptability. In a nutshell, edamame is an immature soybean harvested while it is still tender, green and in the pod.
What does it do?
First mentioned in the year 1275 by the notable Japanese monk, Nichiren, edamame is low in fat and calories, and yet high in protein, fiber and most essential nutrients. In fact, one cup of edamame yields 6 percent of ALL nutrients except vitamin D. As a complete protein, this young soybean provides the full essential amino acid spectrum to assure a successful transition to a vegetarian diet. That same cup of edamame provides heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, helping reduce inflammation as well as the risk of cardiovascular disease.
About the herb
In Japanese, “eda” means “twig,” while “mame” translates to “bean.” Edamame is so named because it is harvested off the bush while still in the pod. Soybeans reaped at just the right time of the growing season bring edamame into a prominent role for human survival. Our numbers bursting at the seams, high protein plant foods can reduce our dependence on oil, diminishing soil resources and dangerously high saturated fats from animal sources.
Edamame serves as a tasty snack or a powerhouse addition to any dish. Since the inedible pod serves as the medium for cooking, boiling or steaming the immature bean within, the best and simplest method for snacking is to squeeze the green gems into a cup followed by a light sprinkle with mineral-rich sea salt.