Green soybeans, or “edamame,” have been with us from the very start of Chubeza. I had successfully grown edamame in California, and thought it would be no big deal to grow it here as well. Turns out, we had to endure quite a few years of failed attempts till we were finally able to successfully grow edamame in the Holy Land. Initially, we imported seeds from the U.S. and seeded them over the hot summer months, just as I had done in the States. Success was partial, not amazing. Though the pods were green and beautiful, they only half-filled with the round peas we toiled so hard to grow. Many of the pods remained green, hairy, flat, and painfully – empty.
Hence, we attempted to treat the edamame like her cousin, the green fava bean. We purchased organic soy seeds at the store and tried to plant them, hoping they would yield chubby green pods. The pods were indeed chubbier, but the soy dried up easily and quickly developed a yellowish hue. Even the peas within them aged slightly. After a few unsuccessful years, we opted to give up and take a little break…
Until five years ago, when one of the seed companies suggested we try a better variety of green soy and we decided to give it another chance. Only one or two beds to begin with. We also changed the date of seeding. Turns out that in Israel, green soy prefers to be seeded at the beginning of spring or the end of summer/beginning of autumn. In the past, we aimed for growth at the heart of summer’s heat. We thought that was how they liked it. (Wrong.) Which teaches us a lesson about always reexamining presumptions and impressions. So, five years ago we tried again, but this time we seeded the edamame towards the second half of summer, and surprise, surprise: it grew strong green bushes, yielding green, chubby pods!
The next year, we stuck with this successful new variety, and seeded it in early spring. Since then, we’ve attempted to find seeds every year (they’re not always available) and grow these joyful pods. It is such a beautiful, green and vital vegetable, resembling the green bean, but with different-shaped leaves – rounder and not sharp-edged. Here, see for yourselves:
We will be harvesting edamame in bunches, and you will need to separate the pods from the branches, but this is most certainly a worthwhile task.
In China, soy has been considered one of the five most sacred types of grain for some 5,000 years, essential to Chinese culture (together with rice, wheat, barley and millet). It was actually deemed essential by the legendary Caesar Shennong, the divine farmer, considered to be the father of Chinese agriculture. Its origins are in North China, from a wild plant named Glycine Ussuriensis.
The process of soy domestication, probably one of the first crops to be cultivated by man, began around the 11th century BC, both as food and for medicinal purposes. By the first century, soy arrived to South and Central China and to Korea. By the 7thcentury, it could be found in Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Burma, Nepal and North India. It took till the 18th century to arrive in the West.
It’s fascinating to ponder what this ancient crop had to endure from the time it was grown in Chinese fields over 5000 years ago, mainly to be used as green manure to improve the soil and enrich the earth for future crops. Today soy is also used as glue, dye, synthetic fiber, soap, ink, candles, lacquer, a rubber substitute, and of course, biodiesel fuel. From a sacred and dignified seed to a genetically-engineered, labeled, patented prisoner.
Like corn, almost everything we eat contains soy, from baby formula to the popular soy oil, through meat and fish (soy is one of the components in animal and fish food), soy flour in various pastries, soy protein in milk substitutes, soy fibers and soy lecithin in virtually every processed food that requires pasting, inflating and “modeling.” It is almost strange to say that food “contains” soy, as in truth it contains various separated components, taken apart and processed to their final drop of protein. Can this actually be called soy? I don’t know. Too philosophical a question for these scorching days… To me it sounds more like amputated, soul-less body parts…
Soy belongs to the legume or Faboidae family, whose distinguished members include beans, peas, chickpeas, black-eyed peas (lubia), fava beans and others. It takes around four months for the plant to fully ripen, harden, dry up and produce brown seeds that look like this:
At this stage they are picked to begin their final journey, during which they will be disassembled, extracted, bloated, fermented, ground, distilled and submitted to other tortures.
But most of our little soy poles are picked when they are green and still deserving of the title edamame (eda- twig, mame- bean).
Soybeans in their natural, original form abound in health benefits: they are rich in protein, containing 60% of the recommended daily consumption (and this protein is similar to that of meat). Such protein is responsible for stabilizing blood sugar levels and aids in reducing the risk of diabetes. In addition, edamame contains vitamins C, A and K, and such minerals as iron, magnesium, potassium and calcium. It is rich in dietary fibers (40% of recommended daily consumption) that can latch onto toxins and cleanse them from the body. Soy contains lecithin, which assists in balancing cholesterol levels and can prevent arteriosclerosis. Lecithin is also an important component for weight loss, as it helps break up fats. In addition, soy contains choline and inositol, elements which improve memory function and the smooth transmission of receptors within the nervous system.
Soy protein also includes sapogenins, renowned for being effective in preventing cancer and cardiac diseases. Edamame is rich in isoflavones, the plant-form of estrogen, and can improve such menopause-related symptoms as hot flashes, heart disease and the loss of bone density, specifically in the spine and thighs. In addition, edamame includes a peptide called lunasin which reduces cholesterol levels in the body by both delaying the production of cholesterol and working to reduce the level of “bad” cholesterol (LDL).
Upon its arrival to Western World, soy achieved a place of honor in the realm of natural food, and like many trends, became most admired and considered a “health bomb,” and a punch line in cholesterol and tofu jokes. Can billions of Chinese be wrong?
Over the past several years, some controversy has developed between the soy advocates, supported by the good health of Chinese and Japanese (and lots of cash… over 50% of the world’s soy is produced by American companies; over 70% of the products in your local supermarket somehow contain soy) and the scientists who wonder whether so much hormone, even if it is vegetal, is indeed healthy. The latter blame soy for increasing various types of cancer (alongside those it prevents), changes in the function of the thyroid gland, harming fertility and brain activity in men, causing congenital defects and even the early sexual development of girls in Western countries.
Part of the blame is placed on the genetic engineering of the majority of the soy grown worldwide (most of which is intended to bolster soy against various herbicides), and the resulting excessive spraying. Although others claim that the fermentation process most soybeans undergo in the Far East to produce such products as tempe, tofu, miso, etc., actually destroys many of its naturally detrimental components, making it safer for use. The jury is still out on this debate, and the evidence is not conclusive enough to make the call.
And once again I am left to quietly ponder the problems of totality, extremism, exaggeration and wholeness, as I share with you the enjoyment of nibbling on some delicious green soybeans, the Oriental snack, and vote for moderation.
Check our recipe section for some great edamame recipes
Holiday greetings for Id El Adha and Tu B’av, both taking place this week. May we enjoy many celebrations, love, moderation, happiness, and of course – good health!
Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Orin and the Chubeza team
WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S SUMMER BOXES?
Monday: Melon/Amoro pumpkin, lettuce, parsley/basil, green soybeans (adamame)/okra/Thai yard-long beans (lubia), cucumbers, tomatoes, onions/leeks/scallions, cherry tomatoes, butternut squash/slice of Neapolitan pumpkin, eggplant, corn. Special gift for all: New Zealand spinach.
Large box, in addition: Potatoes, beets, bell peppers.
FRUIT BOXES: Bananas, mango, Anna apples, green grapes. Large boxes contain greater quantities of all the fruits above
Wednesday: Lettuce, parsley/basil, green soybeans (adamame)/okra/Thai yard-long beans (lubia), cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, leeks/scallions, cherry tomatoes, butternut squash/slice of Neapolitan pumpkin, eggplant/parsley root, corn. Special gift for all: New Zealand spinach.
Large box, in addition: Melon/Amoro pumpkin, potatoes/beets, bell peppers.
FRUIT BOXES: Pears, mango, Anna apples, green grapes. Large boxes contain greater quantities of all the fruits above.