Wednesday, July 8, 2009

How many Edamame does it take to fill a bowl?

I love to eat edamame so much that I have a hard time sharing. The edamame at Grand Lux are particularly tasty, and it's easy to polish off a big bowl of them. Pine Forest Restaurant makes a really nice dish with soybeans (which are just shelled edamame), mustard greens and tofu skin that is one of my favorite dinners. So of course I had to try my hand at growing soybeans.

I ordered "Moon Cake" from Southern Exposure and "Taiwame" from Evergreen Seeds. It was tough not to order the "Beer Friend" seeds from Evergreen just based on the name, but for some reason which I cannot now remember, I chose Taiwame. I started the first Moon Cake seeds in mid-April, and none of them germinated. All my other bean seeds had close to 100% germination, so I was really surprised. It turns out that soybean seeds germinate in relatively dry soil, and don't like to be soaked. By the time I got back around to soybeans, it was already the end of May, and I decided to start Moon Cake and Taiwame at the same time. I let the soil stay quite dry after initially watering in the seeds. This time, I had much better results.

I prefer to start my seeds in pots. I have a stack of 4" black grower pots that I constantly recycle, and I just use regular potting soil. I keep the pots on the ground under a tall sego palm, where they get a bit of filtered sunlight throughout the day. As I have grown in confidence (and run out of available pots), I have started direct sowing most of my beans. Bean seeds are large and forgiving, and the results have been excellent. It's also a pleasure to skip the transplanting step and leave the plants where they are. The soybeans, however, were all started in pots, and then transplanted to the garden at the end of May.

The Taiwame plants are all together in the back yard. I have them staked because they were starting to send out runners, sprawling on the ground and tangling together. The plants are not huge, but they are already full of beans. The Moon Cake plants are in clusters where I could squeeze them in -- some in the front, some along the driveway, and some in back. The plants look healthy, but so far there are no beans. For the most part, they are well-behaved plants that do not require staking.

The big question is whether my garden can produce enough soybeans to make it worthwhile. It takes a lot of edamame to make just one serving, and despite growing quite a few plants, I'm not sure I'll be able to fill even one bowl with edamame from the garden. I've read that soybean plants produce all their beans at once and then they're done. With only four or five pods per plant right now, I'm not encouraged. We may have to continue gettiing our soybean fix at Pine Forest and Grand Lux.

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