Quick Guide to Growing Edamame

• Plant edamame after all chances of frost have passed and average daily temperatures reach the mid-70s° F.
• Space edamame 12 to 18 inches apart in an area with abundant sun and nutrient-rich, well-drained soil.
• Improve native soil by mixing in several inches of aged compost or other rich organic matter.
• Growing edamame plants will need moist soil until they mature. Once established, water them only when the top inch of soil is dry.
• Keep your plants going strong by feeding them regularly with a water-soluble plant food.
• Apply a layer of mulch made from finely ground leaves or bark once plants reach 6 inches tall.
• Harvest edamame when pods are light green and plump.

Soil, Planting, and Care

Edamame and cold weather do not mix, so wait to plant until all danger of frost has passed. Plants demand warm soil, much like basil or tomatoes. Don’t plant seedlings until soil is above 55° F. Edamame plants tolerate diverse conditions, including drought, light shade, and clay soil. You’ll see best yields when you start with strong young edamame plants from Bonnie Plants® and grow them in full sun, tucked into soil enriched with compost or aged compost-enriched Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose In-Ground Soil, with plenty of moisture.

Space edamame 12 to 18 inches apart if you have enough area in the garden, as wider spacing allows more sunlight to reach each plant, often resulting in higher yields. This veggie adapts well to intensive cultivation, though, and you can sow plants as little as 4 inches apart. When edamame matures, all pods on a plant are ready at the same time. To enjoy a long harvest season, use the succession planting technique: Plant a few edamame plants every week or two to ensure fresh beans throughout the growing season.

After planting, keep soil moist until plants are established, then water only when soil is dry. Note, though, that while edamame tolerates drought-like conditions, you’ll get the best harvest with the fattest, most numerous pods when plants receive consistent moisture. In addition to beginning with nutrient-rich soil, for top-notch results, feed your plants with Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Plant Nutrition Granules regularly throughout the season, following label directions.

Keep weeds down while seedlings are small. Once plants mature, their bushy growth helps shade out weeds. Apply mulch when plants are roughly 4 to 6 inches tall. Choose an organic mulch, such as compost, finely ground leaves, weed-free hay, or finely ground bark. Apply a 1-inch-thick layer over soil, leaving a little space around the plant stems.

Edamame plants tend to grow to about two or three feet high—larger than bush bean plants. Plants may flop over, especially if they’re growing in an area subject to wind and heavy rains, so give them some support. Drive stakes into the soil at both ends of each row, then run a string between the stakes. (You may need two levels of string to keep plants upright.)

Edamame beans won’t produce a giant beanstalk and lead to a pot of gold but they’re still magic. Low in calories and high in protein and other healthy stuff there’s loads of reasons why these little beans are now so popular.Edamame beans are immature green soy beans. Originating in Asia they have been valued by the Chinese for thousands of years. Also, popular in Japan where the word Edamame means “beans on branches” which is pretty much how they grow.

Edamame, as a soy bean, contain all 9-amino acid and are a complete protein. Perfect for vegans and vegetarians and for meat eaters who fancy a meat free meal.

Soya beans have until recently been tricky to grow in our climate. However, the new Suttons Edamame Soya Bean is a vast improvement and will deliver early cropping success.

Sowing Edamame

You’ll find full instruction on the Suttons seed packet but in summary:

  • Sow from April to mid-June, in pots or trays on a windowsill or in the greenhouse
  • Germination will take 7 to 14 days
  • Pot on and keep in a light position until the danger of frost is passed. Alternatively, once the soil has warmed up they can be sown direct, protected by fleece or cloches

Growing Edamame

  • Plant out once the danger of frost has passed, choosing a well-drained yet moist, sunny position
  • Plant 15cm apart, in rows 45cm apart
  • The plants are self-supporting but may need some help
  • Keep weed free and water regularly.

Harvesting Edamame

  • Pick the pods when they are bright green and you can make out the beans inside
  • To remove the beans simply pinch the pod and out they will pop. Or, do it Japanese style and cook the pod. As soon as you bite into it the juicy beans will just pop into your mouth
  • Of course, if you prefer you can allow the pods to fully develop meaning that once harvested and dried you will have soy beans.

Care: As with many beans Edamame do contain toxins so need to be cooked before eating.

History of Soybeans

It wasn’t until the 1940’s that soybean farming really took off in America. Soybean production in China, the major supplier at that time, was halted by World War II and internal revolution. When the United States entered the war, the steep increase in demand for oils, lubricants, plastics and other products greatly increased the demand for soybeans. United States farmers produced the needed soybeans.

Following the Second World War, the United States experienced a period of increasing prosperity. Demand for meat consumption increased as people’s diets improved. Livestock producers found that soybean meal was the preferred source of protein at an affordable cost. Chickens, turkeys, cattle and hogs were fed diets containing tens of millions of tons of soybean meal each year. This increase in the use of soybean meal for livestock feed began in the 1950’s and soybean meal has been the preferred choice ever since.

One of the great scientific advances in agriculture was the improvement of the soybean in the 1990s to withstand herbicides. This meant that farmers could control weeds without killing the soybean plant. They wouldn’t have to cultivate the fields with steel implements, which meant less soil erosion, less fuel expended, and more yield per plant. This development resulted in new production practices that are gaining acceptance around the world. Farmers in food deficit regions of Africa and Asia are realizing that this technology will feed many more people on the same amount of land. The technology has allowed U.S. farmers to become suppliers to the world at a time when global demand for food is reaching unprecedented levels.

Thirty-one U.S. states have a soybean production industry. The top producers are the states of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Minnesota. These midwestern states have deep, rich soils and relatively cool summer nights. North Carolina in comparison produces about one-tenth of the volume of soybeans produced in Iowa. But North Carolina produces many other crops besides soybean. A typical North Carolina soybean farmer might also grow corn, wheat, cotton, tobacco, sweet potatoes or peanuts. North Carolina has one of the largest pork and poultry industries in the world. As a net importer of soybeans and soybean meal, North Carolina ranks has high as many entire countries!

Soy Is Set to Become Our Biggest Crop by Acreage. But What Are We Doing With This Soy?

Vast wheat fields form America’s breadbasket. Tall, proud corn fields are the settings for movies. But according to USDA data, a new crop is set to dominate the most acreage in the country: soybeans.

Starting in 2019, the USDA predicts that soybeans will cover the most acreage of any crop in the United States – surpassing corn for the first time – a trend that has been predicted for the past couple of years, and one that will likely continue for at least a few more. The United States is the biggest exported of soybeans in the world, slightly ahead of Brazil; in 2016, we produced 4.31 billion bushels of soy. (Corn produces much more per acre, though soy prices are commensurately higher.) In 2018, the USDA estimates that the U.S. will have 91 million acres of soybeans. This country is, bizarrely, soy country.

And yet, soy is not wildly popular as a food in the United States, at least when called such. Sure, people love soy sauce. But soy products are usually marketed under some other name – say, vegetable oil instead of straight soybean oil, or as margarine instead of hydrogenated soybean oil. Soy products like tofu, soy milk, and natto are niche in the U.S. So why so much soy?

The soybean plant is primarily grown for its edible beans, which are very high in both fat content and protein. In the U.S., the vast majority of soybeans are immediately broken down for their oil, separating it from the rest of the bean, which is called “meal.” The oil is outrageously versatile and useful; like we said above, if you’re buying “vegetable oil,” it’s likely soybean oil, and margarine is often processed soybean oil. And since soybean oil is very cheap, mild in flavor, and easy to work with, it often shows up in pre-made baked goods and other foods.

There are also plenty of industrial, non-food uses for soybean oil: lubricants for cars, crayons, candles, hydraulic fluids, adhesives in particle board, solvents, and more. Biodiesel fuel is usually made with soybean oil.

The soybean meal that’s left over is, almost exclusively, made into animal feed. It mostly goes to chickens, though pigs and cows (both meat and dairy cattle) eat it as well. In fact, that’s why we’re growing so many soybeans: the meat aisle at your supermarket – roughly 70 percent of all U.S. soybeans are grown for animal feed, but at home and abroad.

There’s more to this story: The U.S. exports around half of the soybeans it produces. The biggest importers are China, the EU, Japan, Mexico, and Taiwan, according to the USDA. In fact, about two-thirds of China’s agricultural imports are soybeans. This is a major concern for anyone watching the Trump administration’s take on free trade – the tariffs could slaughter American farmers.

Soybeans

Soybeans and corn are the dominant crops in Minnesota, with almost equal amounts grown — over 7 million acres each — and harvest values of between one and two billion dollars each. Soybeans were grown in China for more than 5,000 years, as corn was cultivated by Native Americans. U.S. farmers grew soybeans in the late 1800s for cattle forage, and in the 1920s began harvesting them for seeds.

Soybean research plots at the Southern Research and Outreach Center, Waseca, are harvested by combines that keep seed from each of 5,000 potential varieties separate.

University varieties released in the 1920s and 30s were selected from similar latitudes in China and Korea, and tested at U of M Agricultural Experiment Stations in Waseca and Morris. However, their 1932 annual report saw limited potential: “The soybean crop has an important function in Southern Minnesota agriculture as an annual or emergency hay crop in case of clover hay failure.”

Yellow leaves are an indication of iron chlorosis. U of M breeders and soil scientists developed varieties that are tolerant of higher pH soils where this is a problem.

By 1940, southern Minnesota farmers planted 251,000 acres of beans that yielded 15 bushels per acre. Now, yields average 41 bushels an acre thanks to breeders, plant disease experts, and soil scientists that adapted the crop to Minnesota.

In 1946 a U of M plant breeder was hired to develop varieties tailored to Minnesota, the most northerly state in the Corn Belt. By the 1970s, 20 varieties were released and plant pathologists and breeders began developing plants resistant to the soybean cyst nematode (SCN), a major pest that invaded southern counties. Another measure of breeders’ success in bringing the soybean north is that 16% of the Minnesota crop is now exported through Duluth; none went through that northern port 15 years ago.

Soybean cyst nematode samples are collected from roots by gently washing away soil and debris.

Soybeans were recognized by the legislature in 1960 with funding to expand genetics and physiology work. In 1965 farmers began supporting research via the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council. The three-way partnership has made Minnesota research, varieties and products worldwide commodities.

Soybean Uses

Soybeans are processed into two major components, protein and oil, and a third minor category of whole soybean products. More than 50% of the world’s protein comes from this crop. Soybeans are an excellent protein source since each seed contains 40% protein, compared with other legumes – 25% – and cereal grains with about 12% protein. Most soy products are consumed by livestock.

Soybean Protein and Meal Products
Poultry, swine, beef, dairy, and pet food. Flour, meat substitute, soymilk, baby formula, pharmaceuticals, adhesives.

Soybean Oil Products
Cooking oil, margarine, salad dressing, biodiesel, dust control, printing ink, glycerol, fatty acids, sterols, lecithin.

Whole Soybean Products (less than 1%)
Sprouts, roasted soy nuts, tofu, soy sauce.

Continue on to Sugar Beets

A Guide to Growing and Harvesting Edamame

Some Japanese farmers transplant this valuable crop from the greenhouse. To do this, be sure to grow the seedlings in separate pots and carefully transplant them after hardening off the plants.

Make sure your edamame bed gets full sun and give the plants the same amount of water you give peas or beans. Once the plants start yielding harvestable pods, keep the beans picked on schedule, not missing any. Remember the plant’s goal is to reproduce, and they won’t continue yielding if you allow them to make seed.

When do you Pick Edamame?

Harvesting edamame pods for fresh eating is like picking peas for shelling. The first sign your crop is close to harvest is the swelling of the pods. Once this starts it’s a good idea to check your plants every couple of days to monitor their progress. This is important because they can quickly over ripen and become starchy. When the beans are fully formed and almost touching each other within the pods, open a few of the plumpest pods to see if the beans are fully formed, and taste a few of them raw. They should be mildly sweet and tender without any starchiness.

Iowa gardener David Cavagnaro says, “There’s a very narrow harvest window, and you really have to pay attention to get the maximum tenderness and sweetness from your crop.” Never let the pods turn yellow, a sure sign the beans inside are getting starchy and past their prime.

Cooking or Freezing Your Edamame

So now you’ve got a crop of edamame coming in, and you’re finding out just how many pods those couple of rows you planted can produce. If there are more ripe pods than you can use fresh, the best way to preserve them at their peak of perfection is to freeze. Freezing edamame is almost as easy as cooking them to eat on the spot. All you do is wash them, then cook and freeze right in the pod.

For freezing, put the pods into lightly salted, boiling water, and instead of cooking them for five to six minutes as you would when you plan to eat them fresh, reduce the cooking time to three to four minutes. When they’re done, lift the pods from the boiling water and put them into a basin of ice water. This will stop the cooking process. Once all the pods are chilled, lift them from the water and pat the excess water with a clean kitchen towel. Next place them into plastic freezer bags, press the excess air out and pop them into the freezer. When you want a taste of summer, just take a bag out of the freezer, pour the contents straight into a pot of boiling water and cook for only two to three minutes.

Best Edamame Varieties for the Garden

To evaluate the edamame varieties now offered in seed catalogs, I enlisted the help of two astute gardeners in other parts of the country, gardener and photographer David Cavagnaro in Decorah, Iowa, and C.R. Lawn, a seeds person in Canaan, Maine, to augment my plantings in Bellingham, Washington. Together we tested the same five varieties: two stalwarts, “Envy” and “Butterbeans,” from Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Albion, Maine; two Japanese newcomers to the United States, “‘Sayamusume” and “Misono Green,” from Territorial Seeds in Cottage Grove, Oregon; and the variety “Shirofumi” from Fedco Seeds in Waterville, Maine. The three of us planted these five edamame varieties during the last week of May in our respective locations, and we all enjoyed enough warmth and sunshine to get our crops off to a running start.

By the middle of August in Iowa and Maine, and early September in Washington, we were all picking and grinning as we discovered just how delicious homegrown edamame can be. We all agreed a good edamame variety had to have a sweet, buttery flavor with a tender, but slightly crunchy texture. But there is another important attribute of good flavor. C.R. Lawn summed it up best: “There’s a nutty flavor that I look for in edamame. It’s the nuttiness that gives body to the flavor.”

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For earliness, there were two clear winners, “Envy” and “Shirofumi.” For an early harvest, “Shirofurni” had the sweetest, most tender beans; it got rave reviews in all locations. But “Envy” shouldn’t be counted out. “Envy,” which is touted as a first early variety, was easily 10 days earlier than “Shirofumi” for me in cool, coastal Washington State. In the hotter summers of Iowa and Maine (yes, Maine can have hot weather!), it wasn’t significantly earlier than “Shirofurmi.” While “Envy” wasn’t as sweet as other edamame varieties, it did have a robust, nutty flavor, which coupled with its earliness should earn it a spot in any short-season garden.

“Sayamusume” received the real honors for flavor. It took a little longer to mature but was well worth the wait. “Sayamusume” was about a week later in maturity than the other varieties in Iowa and Maine. Another edamame connoisseur, Steve Peters of Seeds of Change in Santa Fe, New Mexico, says, “Sayamusume” is everything you want in edamame: It’s plump, tender, sweet, with a buttery flavor, and it’s consistent from pod to pod.”

David Cavagnaro recognizes another plus for gardeners who “shell out” their edamame for cooking: “Both ‘Sayamusume’ and ‘Shirofumi’ have big pods with big seeds, which makes then easier to shell than the other varieties

“Butterbeans” was the real surprise in this test. Since “Butterbeans” is derived from a cross between an American soybean and a Japanese edamarne, I suspected its flavor and quality wouldn’t match the other purebred edamame varieties. However, it did well in all locations, with a harvest window just behind “Envy” and “Shirofumi,” and a buttery, sweet flavor almost as good as “Shirofumi.”

“Misono Green” received less praise than the others, as its flavor was on the bland side and it wasn’t early. It did, however, yield well, setting quite a few pods.

Growing Edamames for Your Region

Regionally, there were differences in these varieties’ reaction to the environment. “Envy” and “Butterbeans” seemed to perform best in more northerly locations, with “Envy” showing its early advantage in the cool coastal Washington summer. In trials performed in New Mexico by Seeds of Change. “Envy” produced few harvestable pods and had yellowing leaves on spindly plants. Jeff McCormick of Garden Medicinals in Earlysville, Virginia, tried growing “Butterbeans” a few years ago only to find an unappealing discoloration of the beans in the green-shell stage.

Margaret Crow, a homesteader near Southwest Ranches, Florida, plants her edamame in August or September for a winter crop and has had great success with “Butterbeans,” demonstrating how a variety from another region can work if planted at the right time of year. However, she also grows “Envy” under this regimen and its yields are still poor.

As always, the best advice is to grow at least a couple of different varieties in your garden and scrutinize the results. Obviously, a variety like “Sayamusume,” which performed superbly in Maine, Iowa, Washington and New Mexico, should do well in most locations.

When he’s not snacking on edamame, independent plant breeder John Navazio trains seed growers and develops improved vegetable varieties for organic growing at his new company, SEEDS (Sustainable Education for the Ethical Development of Seeds), in Iowa City, Iowa.

Edamame Seed sources

Johnny’s Selected Seeds
www.johnnyseeds.com; “Envy,” “Butterbeans”

Territorial Seed Co.
www.territorialseed.com; “Sayamusume,” “Misono Green”

Fedco*
www.fedcoseeds.com; “Shirofumi”

*Fedco is the only U.S. supplier of “Shirofumi,” but its deadline for 2002 orders has passed.

How to Grow Edamame in Your Backyard

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Edamame is not yet a common site in backyard gardens in America, but it is quickly becoming more popular. As more people become aware of the nutritional value and great taste of these green soybeans, more backyard gardeners are looking into how to grow edamame in their vegetable gardens.

If you live in San Diego County, Riverside County, Orange County or the surrounding areas, edamame might be a particularly good crop for you to consider. Not only is this a unique addition to your garden, but edamame can do quite will in two things Southern California has plenty of: drought conditions and clay soil.

Before we go into how to grow edamame in your garden, it is important to note that edamame is not the same thing as the soybeans grown for livestock feed. It is also not the same thing used to make the many soy-based products you can find at the grocery store, such as tofu, miso, tempeh or soy burgers. Soybeans used for these purposes have been allowed to fully ripen and mature. Edamame is picked when it is younger — generally being harvested around just 35 days after the plants flower. This means that edamame beans are softer and sweeter than soybeans.

How to Grow Edamame: Planting Green Soybeans

Your edamame will do best in a spot in your garden that has well-draining soil and gets full sun. If possible, test your soil and pick a spot (or amend it) to provide your edamame with slightly acidic soil with lots of organic matter, such as compost, mixed in. You will likely find that raised garden beds are easier to work with for this and other crops, particularly since it makes it easier to achieve the preferred soil quality and to control the conditions in which your plants are grown.

You can grow green soybeans from seeds or purchase seedlings at your local garden center to transplant into your garden. Edamame is definitely a warm-weather plant, so if you live in an area that gets frost, you should start your seeds indoors and transplant them into your garden beds once the weather warms up. If planting seeds in the soil, you can start by planting about four inches apart in rows that are about two feet apart. If you are planting seedlings, space them about one foot to 18 inches apart to get the best harvest per plant. Green soybeans can also grow well when planted closer together, so that is an option if you have limited space.

How to Grow Edamame: Tending to Your Plants

As with most crops, you will need to regularly pull weeds, add a layer of mulch or compost around the plants and water frequently until the plants are established. Once your plants are established, you should be able to water once or twice per week, depending on the weather. Simply check the soil and give your edamame water whenever it is dry.

Since these are bushy plants, it is a good idea to use tomato cages or stakes to provide support as they grow.

How to Grow Edamame: Harvesting and Storing

All of the pods on an edamame plant will be ready to harvest at the same time. Keep an eye on the pods when you are getting close to 35 days after flowering, since you want to be sure to pick them while they are still young and tender. You will be looking for the pods to be plump and a vibrant green.

Edamame does not keep well, so you will want to harvest it close to the time it will be eaten, if possible. You will enjoy the best flavor and nutritional value if you eat your edamame the same day that you harvest it, but you can generally keep it in the refrigerator for two to three days, if needed.

If your harvest is too large to be consumed within a few days, you can blanch your beans in the pods and freeze them for future use.

Photo Credits (in order of appearance): morgueFile, thesuccess; morgueFile, rikahi; Wikimedia Commons/Tammy Green; Wikimedia Commons/Kanko

Edamame

Vegetable soybeans are not only tasty but healthful. They contain almost 40 percent protein (11 grams per 1/2 cup of cooked beans) and are high in vitamins A and B, calcium, iron, and fiber. Recent research shows that soybeans are high in essential fatty acids and low in saturated fat, and that increased consumption of soybean products may lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease, breast cancer, and osteoporosis.

When most people think of soybeans, they envision vast Midwestern fields of plants that will eventually become animal feed, cooking oil, tofu, and dozens of other soybean-based products. Few gardeners consider growing the beans themselves, let alone eating them fresh. While the typical home garden use of soybeans is as a cover crop, some varieties of the common soybean (Glycine max) have been bred to be eaten fresh. Edamame (ed-uh-mah-may), as the Japanese call vegetable soybeans, are grown in the same way as regular forage crop soybeans, but the pods are harvested at the green or “shell” stage. The green beans pack a high-protein punch and have a sweet, buttery flavor and nutty texture. I’ve grown them for years, and come summer my daughter always asks when the soybeans will be ready.

Not only are they tasty and nutritious, but edamame are fun to eat. Cook the fuzzy, 2- to 3-inch-long pods for 5 minutes in water, let them cool, then squeeze the beans out of the pods directly into your mouth, tossing the inedible pods aside. Japanese bars serve bowls of warm, salted edamame with beer. You can also use shelled beans in Asian recipes or salads. If you like the taste of beans, peanuts, or cowpeas, or if you want to inspire your kids to eat more vegetables, consider growing a row of edamame.

Edamame Varieties

Any soybean can be harvested and eaten at the green stage, but it won’t be as sweet and tender as a variety developed for eating fresh. Most of these varieties are from China (where the beans are called maodou), Taiwan, and Japan — regions where the beans are wildly popular. Recently, some of these varieties have reached North America.

If you live in a cool-summer climate, you need to choose varieties carefully because edamame are sensitive to cool nights and take longer than bush beans to mature. Varieties listed as maturing in 70 to 80 days may take more than 100 days. In five-year trials by Washington State University’s Cooperative Extension Office in Lewis County, 18 varieties were evaluated for earliness, quantity of pods, and number and size of beans (three beans per pod is considered excellent, while two beans is acceptable).

Some varieties never produced pods before frost, but others were clear winners. ‘Lucky Lion’, ‘Sapporo Midori’, and ‘White Lion’ matured early and developed the most and plumpest pods. Two American varieties, ‘Butterbean’ (not to be confused with this common name for lima beans) and ‘Envy’ also performed well, with ‘Envy’ maturing earlier.

As Easy as Beans

Edamame are as easy to grow as bush beans but take a little longer. In my Vermont garden, I’ve harvested plump pods in late August from a May planting. In the South, you can even have two crops: one planted in March for a May or June harvest, and another planted in September for a November harvest.

Plant edamame as you would bush beans. After the soil has warmed to 60&deg F, sow seeds 1 inch deep and 2 to 4 inches apart, in rows 2 feet apart. In poorer soil, mix the seed with a legume inoculant strain for soybeans before planting. Inoculants help the plants fix atmospheric nitrogen, making this key nutrient more available. To produce an abundant crop, mulch with a 2- to 4-inch layer of hay or straw to retain soil moisture and keep weeds at bay. In sandy or low-fertility soils, side-dress at flowering with a 10-20-20 fertilizer at a rate of 1 pound per 100-foot row.

Edamame have few pests and diseases. In the South, the bean leaf roller can hamper growth, and powdery mildew can rot the beans on the plant before harvest. However, these problems are rarely severe enough to reduce yields or require controls.

Harvesting edamame at the right time is critical. Beans reach their maximum sweetness about a month after flowering. The quality is best when beans fill 85 percent of the pod, which should be bright green, similar to snow peas in color. One 2-foot-tall plant may yield up to 30 pods. You can pick individual beans off the plants or pull the whole plant out of the ground when most of the beans are mature, and then pick the beans later.

Be careful when harvesting individual beans. The stems are brittle, and I’ve broken a few when trying to harvest too fast.

Eating Beans

The traditional way to eat edamame is to boil or steam 2 cups at a time for 5 minutes. The beans should have a bright, not pale, green color after cooking. Let them cool, salt to taste, then eat. If you can’t use them all at once, keep raw beans in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. To store them longer, blanch whole pods for 2 to 3 minutes and freeze them in the pod for up to six months.

Although edamame are usually served as a snack or appetizer, if you can resist popping them in your mouth they also make great additions to soups, stir-fries, and salads.

Charlie Nardozzi is a senior horticulturist at National Gardening.

Midori Giant

Learning Download: How to Grow Beans

Beans are referred to as a number of names including snap beans, string beans and green beans. Known as being one of the more productive garden crops, they are a warm weather favorite that can be eaten straight from the garden.

Before Planting: Beans prefer full sun, at least 6-8 hours a day. The soil temperature should be above 60°F before planting for best germination rates, and they do best with soil temperatures in the 70-80°F range. Beans don’t need the best soil conditions to thrive as they are often used to improve soil conditions because they will fix nitrogen in the soil. The preferred soil pH is about 5.8 to 6.5. Green beans can be successfully grown in containers.

Planting: For bush beans, plant the seeds about 1-1.5 inches deep, maybe 2 inches deep in the summer for a fall planting. The rows should be 2.5 to 3 feet apart. After the beans are up, thin the plants to 3 to 4 inches apart. For pole beans, plant 1 inch deep and 3 feet apart. Place a stake between each planted seed. As the bean vines mature, they will grow up the stakes. To ensure bean germination in each location plant 2-3 seeds.

Watering: Water beans with about 1 inch of water a week. Do not let the soil get dry while the beans are blooming or the blooms will drop and yields will be decreased. If possible, avoid wetting leaves. This will help minimize plant diseases.

Fertilizer: After the plants begin to flower and set beans, apply 1/2 cup of general purpose fertilizer for every 10 feet of row. Scatter the fertilizer between the rows. This will help the plants produce more beans. Water the plants after fertilizing. You can also side dress the rows with general purpose fertilizer at planting time.

Days to Maturity: Ranges from 60-75 days depending on variety. If planted early many areas can produce a fall crop.

Harvesting: Beans should be picked while the pods still snap, and the beans have not filled the pod out completely. Beans get tough and stringy if allowed to grow too big. If beans are picked when they are ready, the plants will continue producing for several weeks. When harvesting, use two hands to hold the bean and pull it from the stem, yanking it off the stem with one hand can often damage the plant.

Storing: Store fresh beans in plastic bags or in other containers in the refrigerator. They usually can be stored in the refrigerator for a week or so. Some varieties can also be canned or frozen.

Pests & Diseases: Molds, bacterial, and wilt diseases are common. These problems are most frequent in wet weather, heat, and humidity. If spots appear on leaves or bean pods, treat the plant with an approved fungicide. Before using a pesticide, read the label. Always follow cautions, warnings and directions. Most varieties of beans are susceptible to a variety of insects and rodents, most notably beetles. Rabbits can eat the tender new leaves. A rabbit fence may be necessary to keep them from ruining your crop.

Disease Resistance Abbreviations: C – Common Bean Mosaic; CT – Curly Top; N – New York 15 Virus; P – Pod Mottle; R – Rust

Tips: Beans can be harvested at any size as long as the pods are firm and crisp. Be sure to pick beans frequently to ensure the crop keeps producing. Try using organic mulches, such as straw, grass clippings, or composted leaves to help to retain moisture and control weeds.

Farming 101: How to Plant Soybeans

When to plant

In determining when to put seeds in the ground, soil condition and weather trump date. The experts will say the earlier you plant, the better the yield, but there must be adequate ground moisture and the weather should be in a warming trend. At least 50˚F. and warming to ensure adequate soil temps is ideal. Be sure there is no longer a risk of late freeze or frost by the time of the crop’s emergence seven to 10 days after planting.

For the upper Midwest, optimal planting time is generally April 25 to mid-May. By late May, producers will see a yield reduction. Planting in early April carries significant risk, but when successful can produce impressive yields.

“With today’s seed treatments we are seeing planting earlier that ever before,” says Licht. “You need to look at your planting window and your harvest window and determine what works best for you. There are weather risks on both ends.”

According to Purdue Extension, 67% of Indiana growers plant soybeans one to three weeks earlier than they did 10 years ago.

Farmers growing both corn and beans often find themselves fighting spring rains to get both crops in the ground on time. Licht says corn timing is more important than beans, as beans are more resilient. “Some are planting beans before corn,” says Licht. “While for others, it’s hard for them to wrap their heads around that change.” For larger farms he suggests running two planters simultaneously.

Equipment needs

Luckily for multicrop producers, corn-planting equipment also works for soybeans with very few adjustments.

It is important to place the seed into the ground at a precise depth and in firm contact with the soil. A corn planter usually does a better job than a grain drill, though modern drills have much better depth control than older drills.

Seed depth and spacing

Seed depth will mostly depend on soil type and soil conditions at planting time. The best soybean yields occur on well-drained, but not sandy soils having a pH of 6.5 or above.

Ideal seed depth for most conditions is 1¼ to 1½ inches, but beans can be planted up to 2 inches deep in sandy soils, or in dry conditions. If planting 2 inches deep to access uniform moisture, make sure the variety has an excellent emergence score.

Recommend seeding rates for seed not treated with insecticide or fungicide is around 170,000 seeds per acre for 7½-inch row spacing, 160,000 seeds per acre for 15-inch rows, and 150,000 plants per acre for 30-inch rows. If an insecticide/fungicide seed treatment is used, seeding rates can be reduced by 10,000 to 20,000 seeds per acre.

“The goal is to get the best results from the potential of the genetics,” says Licht.

Licht says seed placement and spacing are not as crucial with soybeans as with corn. Beans will compensate for plant spacing and other ills. The plants spread and fill in gaps and perfect stands are not required for maximum yields. But gaps of a foot or more between plants mean you need to adjust your planter settings.

The 15-inch row seems to be the soybean sweet spot, especially for the Grain Belt. The yield difference between 30-inch rows and rows 20 inches or less can be as much as 2.9 bushels per acre, but there are other considerations. Soybeans can be susceptible to disease, with their closed canopy creating a humid microclimate. In areas prone to pathogens like white mold, plant spacing of up to 30 inches may be preferable.

Be sure your conditions are such that reduced row width and greater seeding rates justify the increased cost of seed.

Weed Control

Weed control is the primary concern through the early stages of plant growth until the canopy closes around late June.

You may want to apply a residual herbicide that will remain active in the soil for an extended period of time and act on successive weed germinations. Residual herbicides are often weed species specific and can help control weeds that have become glyphosate resistant. Residual herbicides require moisture to activate, but not too much, or the chemicals can break down too quickly, so watch the weather report when planning application.

When planting no-tillage glyphosate-resistant soybeans, such as Roundup Ready, a burn-down herbicide should be used before or at the time of planting if significant weed cover is present. With conventional tillage glyphosate-resistant soybeans, it is recommended glyphosate be applied 24 to 30 days after planting.

Fall prep

Fall is the time to check soil nutrient levels in preparation for next year’s soybean crop. If the field was previously planted to corn, check phosphorous and potassium levels. If the pH level is less than 6, treat with lime. Licht says beware of two-year applications. The corn can remove more nutrients than anticipated, leaving levels short for beans.

Soybeans are also sensitive to certain herbicide residues, so care should be taken to ensure carryover will not affect next year’s crop.

Planting safety

Once planting season begins, it is of utmost importance to follow best practices for safety and environmental stewardship. Time is short. The planting season is hectic. But take time to take extra care.

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