Thursday, September 10, 2009

Savoring the harvest: Steamed mommy beans (a.k.a. edamame beans)

by June

Family celebrations around here often involve sushi (or shushi as the girls say). For Birch's first Father's Day, we took the baby girls to our favorite restaurant, and I will never forget the two of them with huge squares of nori seaweed clutched in their dimpled hands. As they grew, they developed a passion for another Japanese-restaurant delight, edamame beans, which Fern and Blossom dubbed Mommy Beans. The name stuck.

Edamame beans (Glycine max or garden soybeans) are known as mao dou in China and have been grown there for 2200 years. In Japan, they are a favorite snack eaten with beer, which is where they get the nickname "beer bean." In Asia, the crops are often harvested during the celebrated full moons in September and October.

They are easy to grow -- if you can get them past the slugs as they sprout. This washout-year, I must have lost a third of my crop to the slugs. I use inoculant slurry on the beans and plant them thickly in a raised bed. They are beautiful sturdy plants about two-feet high; they flower all along the stem. The pods spend all summer plumping up, and it's best to pick them right before the beans fill the pod and start turning brown. Every pod on a plant is ready at the same time.

No matter how many edamame beans I grow, when harvest rolls around, there never seem to be enough. Because there never could be enough. Next to popcorn, this is our top go-to winter snack.
We've got the freezer loaded now with family-size packets. We blanched the beans in their pods for one minute, then plunged them into a bowl of ice water. Then into zipper bags they went. When the snow blows, and we want a warming snack we'll steam the frozen beans in the bamboo stack for five minutes or so, sprinkle them with flakes of sea salt, scrape the beans out of the pods with our teeth, toss the pods and...yum!

One of our favorite winter meals is oyakodon, a hearty egg-and-chicken rice dish I grew to love in a pocket restaurant on 47th Street in New York. Japanese businessmen gathered there for noodles and soup. The windows were so steamy and the food so authentic that it was difficult to tell whether it was lunchtime in Tokyo or mid-town Manhattan. One of the things we'll be doing with our frozen edamame beans is steaming them as a starter when oyakodon is on the menu. In fact, we grew so hungry for that meal as we worked to put up our winter stores of edamame beans that we had to have it for supper right then.

We sat on the back porch in the soft falling evening light of September. With the stripped bean plants still in a heap by our feet, we ate our favorite winter comfort food: steamed edamame beans followed by oyakodon. It tasted as good in September as it will in January.


farmama sara said...

Don't you just love edamame beans? Sooo good! I love the pic of your girls with their cowgirl boots carrying the big edamames!

Magnolia Handspun said...

Love the image of your 2 girls! Looks like you are having quite the harvest this year June.
This looks so good...reading your blog is such a treat...and lately it's been very mouthwatering I might add.
I really have to try this!

The Cutting Edge of Ordinary said...

LOL when my kids were little they called them MAMAY beans and that name stuck in our house. I love them and that recipe for oyakodon looks wonderful!

Tricia Orchard said...

I feel embarrassed admitting this... but I have never tried edamame beans. Or kale.

Maybe I need to broaden my horizons a little!

They both sound yummy!


Dawn Suzette said...

This made my mouth water... So wonderful!
My kids love them too! Now you have me thinking about next years garden!
I found your blog through a comment you left on Tara's blog...
Can't wait until I have the time to read more!
Have a great weekend...

Stephanie said...

Very beautiful harvest!

Colleen - the AmAzINg Mrs. B said...

I just discovered "Mommy beans" this past year - can you believe that? I do love them - and at work we often have them for a "working snack" - easy & safe to have by the computers :-)

Loved the photo of the girls behind the plants! Have a great fall week-end and enjoy every minute with your sweet family :-)

JGH said...

You got some gorgeous beans, there! I think we'll adapt your nickname for them. I grew them this year for the first time, but I only had about 10 plants - also lost a lot to slugs. So I won't be freezing any.

Love the photo of the giant bean pod monsters crossing the grass!

(and I used to live on 47th St. in Manhattan. I think I know the spot you described!)

Bangchik and Kakdah said...

Great mommy beans when every pod is ready at the same time... ~bangchik

Sharon said...

Makes me wish that Nature Boy didn't have a soy allergy! they look wonderful

If you want to shoot me an email, I would be glad to point you in the right direction about PhotoShop... I'm really enjoying it!

sarah said...

I have to laugh, we call them the same thing, they are a favorite here too.
The photo of your girls and their loads of beans is so darn cute.
What a nice treat to have for the winter months ahead.

Country Girl said...

Thanks for the kind comment you left on my blog. I am happy to find your blog. Maine woman with similar interests. We do not homeschool but I have considered. I am not sure what happened to our edamame beans this year (not sure if they got planted) but the last couple years we put quite a few up. My kids love them as well. Loved your post!

Anonymous said...

what bushy heads your girls have grown!

we have nanommy beans.

don't you just love sitting on the porch shelling beans. i swear it's one of our favorite things to do.

Wren said...

There was a girl at work eating them once as a snack and I had no idea what they were! Never had them before. Your pictures are marvelous! I love the beans in the basket! The dishes you describe sound so wonderful too! Glad you are enjoying your bountiful harvest : ))

5orangepotatoes said...

Edamame is a favorite of ours too! Such a healthy food. I've never grown it before, must try next year. Love your blog, it's full of wonderful information, beautiful little ladies and great photos.


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