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Planting soybeans in garden

Planting soybeans in garden

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When home gardeners think about planting vegetables, it’s usually along the lines of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.

Soybeans generally aren’t part of the mix because we think of soybeans as a field crop planted by farmers.

But soybeans also can be planted in the backyard and harvested as edamame, the Japanese name for the green stage of the bean.

Edamame (edah-MAH-may) has become a trendy vegetable in recent years. It tastes something like a cross between a fresh lima bean and a shelling pea and is high in protein. It also contains fiber and heart-healthy fat.

Edamame also is called a green soybean, vegetable soybean or sweet bean. They are easy to grow in the home garden.

Getting started

Finding seeds to plant is the first task. Some garden centers may carry them, although a spot check with several in the Quad-Cities came up empty.

If you know a farmer with soybeans, you can plant those with acceptable results.

Seeds also are available from some mail-order businesses, although time is running short for this season and not all varieties mature properly in the Midwest.

Another source is Walter Fehr, an agronomy professor at Iowa State University, Ames, who conducts soybean research and has developed several edamame varieties for the home garden.

He is willing to send out a limited number of 100-count seed packets as part of his research. To receive a free packet, email him at: or write to Walter R. Fehr, 1212 Agronomy Hall, ISU, Ames, IA 50011.


Planting time is now. Make your rows a couple of feet apart, and drop seeds three inches apart into furrows an inch deep.

Soybean plants are bushy, resembling bush green beans. They tolerate hot weather better than peas, which languish in summer heat, and cool weather better than limas, which languish in spring’s coolness.


Harvest edamame pods when they are fully plump and still bright green. As with limas and some other beans, edamame must be cooked before they’re fit to eat.

Toss the pods in boiling water with salt for about eight minutes. Cooled pods gladly release their beans when gently squeezed between your fingers.

Alma Gaul can be contacted at (563) 383-2324 or


Following are mail order sources:

* Rupp Seeds, Wauseon, Ohio,

* Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Winslow, Maine,

* Nichols Garden Nursery, Albany, Ore.,


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