Finger Lakes Edamame: Hard to Grow, Easy to Eat
Edamame—a.k.a. soybeans—are those woody, pea-like pods packed with sweet, tender morsels that appear in lieu of a breadbasket at Asian-inspired restaurants. A staple of the Japanese appetizer menu, it has a different role in New York. The nitrogen-fixing legume is New York State’s largest cover crop, producing a record 13.3 million bushels in 2009. Despite those numbers, getting our hands on these magic beans is no mean feat for Finger Lakes chefs and shoppers.
“‘Soybean’ is the umbrella term,” says Rick Pedersen of Pedersen Farms in Seneca Castle. There are three distinct categories that range according to size, harvesting time and final use. Edamame are harvested when green and immature, while the food-grade beans stay on the vine to harden and dry for fall harvest, as do the feed-grade beans slated for animal forage.
They may be a dream on the plate, but tender edamame can cause farmers nightmares with their low germination rates, intensive hand-picking requirements and susceptibility to predation by rabbits and deer. Pedersen, who sells edamame to the Red Dove Tavern in Geneva and food-grade beans to Rochester-based Soy Boy (for its 5 Grain Tempeh and Tofu Raviolis) says despite it all, he would happily plant more if the demand increased.
Grilled Edamame with Garlic
1 pound fresh edamame, in the shell
2 tablespoons Butternut Squash Seed Oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
Heat a grill to medium. Toss the edamame with the oil until evenly coated. Add the minced garlic and sea salt and mix well. Place edamame in a metal wire grill basket and grill until lightly charred and heated through (3 to 5 minutes). Move edamame to a platter, squeeze lime juice over the pods and serve, with an empty bowl alongside for the shells.