I direct sowed Shironamai soybeans in early May. The seed packet claims 70 days from sowing to harvest, and I think we began harvesting at exactly 70 days! We love to eat edamame, which are soybeans boiled in the pod for just three minutes then seasoned with sea salt. You position the seasoned pod in front of your mouth like a harmonica, then gently squeeze each bean out of the pod directly into your mouth. The beans have a fresh nutty flavor, and they are quite healthy. We like to use a bit of cayenne pepper along with salt to give them some extra zip! If you have never had edamame, give them a try the next time you visit your favorite Japanese restaurant. You can find them in the appetizer section of the menu!
We harvested the pods when the beans were noticeably bulging and felt firm when squeezed. When they are still developing, the beans feel spongy when squeezed. Soybeans are "bush beans," so they do not require a trellis or staking. They grow upright on a compact bush form.
From 20 plants, we harvested about 12 servings of edamame so far, and there are probably 6 more servings left to harvest - there are somewhere near 30 pods to a serving. Not all the beans were 100% ready for harvest, so we left them for a later time. I'm not sure if soybeans produce more pods once you harvest the beans, but I will find out soon enough. These plants are very drought tolerant and don't mind the heat one bit, so I will sow a second crop when I am sure this first one has finished.
Another great thing about soybeans is that they freeze up beautifully. Sugar snap peas and green beans get flimsy when frozen, but not soybeans! Simply boil the beans for four minutes, then plunge them into an ice water bath for another four minutes, pat the pods dry, and store in freezer baggies, pod and all. When you are in the mood for some edamame, pull some out of the freezer and boil them for three minutes. They are just as good as the day they were picked! In fact, it is impossible to find fresh edamame (at least in Asheville). You can only buy them in the frozen food section!