As I've mentioned, my grandparents on my mother's side were Japanese immigrants and they lived in Indiana. Most 1st generation Japanese lived on the West Coast so my grandparents settling in the Midwest was quite unusual. This was nearly 100 years ago and my grandfather got the idea that since the farm belt of America was raising so many soy bean crops for pig feed, that he would start a soy sauce factory and introduce Americans to Japan's favorite seasoning.
My grandfather was never a farmer, but he made an extended visit to Japan, learned how to make soy sauce, came back to Indiana and built his factory, and then arranged for soy beans produced locally to be delivered. I suppose you could say he was successful because he ran his factory until he retired in his early 70s.
The Indiana farmers thought Japanese cuisine must be very strange. Their soy beans were being turned into this salty, fermented black stuff that didn't look or smell so great (it is pretty strong stuff in the vats) and on top of that, there was a rumor that the nice Japanese family was actually eating pig feed themselves! Yep. Edamae. Before the soy beans get too tough, they are very tender and delicious and the Japanese have been eating them for generations.
I have a feeling that the soy beans in the fields near my house will be left, either for feed or maybe for dried and roasted soybeans that can be made into other delicacies but at this time of year, these stalks can be found bundled in the supermarkets and housewives will remove just the beans and cook them in salty water. An even easier way (I cheat) is to use the pre-boiled frozen Edamame. These I have even bought in California so I think Edamame are showing up all over the world.
Have you ever bought these? I can't say for sure what the cooking directions are for the American brand, but these frozen Japanese packages only have to be opened, left at room temperature to thaw and are eaten as is. Please remember that you eat the inner bean part and leave the hulls at the edge of your plate. That part is inedible but I've seen foreigners trying to consume the whole bean and what a lot of grimaces and tooth picking result!
Another thing to remember if you are cooking these (either fresh off the stalk or frozen) is that they only need to be cooked for a two or three minutes. Cook them any longer and you get an unappetizing mush when you bite into a bean. Edamame needs to have a bit of crunch. And I prefer to add a little extra salt.
Try a few Edamame as a snack. They give you fiber and vitamins and I'm told they are great as a side dish to a glass a beer. (Not being a beer drinker I couldn't say but they are served at most bars and drinking places.) I let my friends drink beer and I eat their Edamame.
Since I've opened the package to take this picture, guess what we're having for dinner tonight...