Edamame Extraveganza

I don’t know if you’ve heard about the recent honey smuggling ring to avoid tariffs on Chinese produced honey. You may not know that there are places in China where pesticide misuse has made it necessary for people to hand-pollinate pear and apple crops because there are now no bees left. You may not have seen pictures of Chinese cities where you can’t see the office building across the street because the air pollution is so bad. But these things all play a part in my search for domestic edamame.

The Chinese are not known for there amazing food safety record. On the contrary, they are still struggling with safety vs. profit (aren’t we all). The laws regarding pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers are a throwback to the Wild West: there are none. Chemicals that have been banned in the rest of the world find their way to Chinese farms. Even chemicals that are widely used in the West are over applied and misused.

You might be thinking that edamame is Japanese, so why does all this Chinese mumbo-jumbo matter? Take a moment and check the back of your Trader Joe’s box or Costco bag, and you will see that the beans are a product of China. Believe me, I have been checking edamame bags everywhere I find them. From Jewel to our Asian market, they are all Chinese edamame.

I found this a little odd…since I live in the country that produces the most soybeans in the world (it isn’t even close – Brazil is second and we produce about twice what they do). Surely there must be American edamame somewhere.

I started my search, and quickly realized that almost all of the soy we produce is used for vegetable (soy) oil and things like fillers for processed foods and feed for animals. The actual food grade edamame that I wanted is much harder to find. Thank goodness for Google.

Luckily for me, Western Michigan is actually crawling with small farms that grow batches of food grade edamame. I went on a lovely little website called LocalHarvest that let me enter my zip code, and then it burped out a list of farms and what they produced. I was in U Pick heaven. I found a couple of places nearby (which I have found is a relative term here in Michigan), shot off a few emails, and in short order had 20 pounds of certified organic edamame being picked and boxed for me.

We ended up with almost twice what we ordered – the pods weren’t as big as she had thought – so I found myself on the business end of almost 40 pounds of unprocessed soybeans.

They were filthy. When you think about it, of course they were filthy, they grow on a farm, out of the ground. But after living a mostly buy-it-in-the-bag-already-washed existence, I was startled at how much work is was just to get the pods ready for the blanching pot. The little buggers are covered with a peach fuzz-like “hair”, and those hairs are really good at holding onto dirt. And then, when you wash them in giant vats in the sink, a lot of the hairs fall off and make the water so dark it looks like coffee.

After two solid hours of washing, rinsing, washing and rinsing again, I had a dining room table that was completely covered in edamame. Covered.

One by one, carefully measured two-pound batches of edamame were blanched, put in a cold bath, rinsed in cold water, and bagged for their new home in my freezer. It was a ton of work, but the kind that makes you feel good and productive when its over, like mowing the lawn or building a deck.

Of course, according to the DH (the Japanese food snob) it was the wrong edamame. He was disappointed that they weren’t some kind of specific variety. I expressed that this might have been something he should have mentioned before I bought the stuff. He tasted it and deemed them sweet and good enough, but next time I needed to ask for some kind of Japanese Giant variety and I thought to myself “no, next time you need to ask, because I don’t really give a crap.”

We now need to eat about a pound of edamame a week to stay ahead of the stuff. The boys eat them for snacks and I love popping them into salads, so it shouldn’t be too much of a chore.

Will I do it again? You bet. And I am so ferociously cheap that I will even probably go ahead and u pick next year to get them for even less money. Who knew that proximity to fresh produce would one of the things to make the move here so exciting?

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