Growing Soybeans for the Farmers Market
- by Sara Schlosser (Sara owns Sandiwood Farm in Wolcott, VT, and is also a High Mowing Sales Associate)
Soybeans, or edamame, is a staple in Japanese menus and is becoming more and more prevalent in grocery stores and farmers markets. Every autumn we look forward to devouring these freshly steamed and salted protein rich treats. This year we made sure to get them in early enough for our son to enjoy before going off to college, and we’re also putting some in the freezer to take pleasure in throughout the winter. With minimal planning you can look forward to a bountiful harvest throughout the fall months.
Soybeans are easy to grow, and typically are sown before other beans. We usually plant them thickly in rows about 2 weeks after the peas. I use a pea plate on an Earthway seeder, which seeds the plants into a thick stand. This year we tried the Midori Giant, which are truly giant in plant and bean size. In addition to a few weeding “hoe downs”, we hilled these substantial plants a few times throughout their growing season to keep them upright in our windy location.
I’ve never had any disease problem with soybeans, but this year the leaves were laced by Japanese Beatles (read our blog post about Controlling Japanese Beetles). Despite the Beatles feast, the beans produced a bumper crop of soybeans of unsurpassable flavor! (For further resources, a helpful Soybean Disease Diagnostic Tool can be found at the University of Minnesota’s Extension website)
There are many ways gardeners and small scale growers can harvest. We choose to cut the plant with good clippers at the base when the majority of the beans are fat and still green. We find it easy to sit comfortable and hold the plant stalks upside down and pull handfuls off at a time into the bushel basket.
At market we sell them by the pound, but we’ve also found that customers like the convenience of picking up a pint container ready to go. Since we have had so many this year, we are also steaming and selling them ready to eat as a healthy snack.
If you don’t have enough time or a crew to shuck your beans, but you do have some extra space in your market truck, you can simply tie bundles of plants together. Many customers enjoy preparing their food from the harvest stage.
For more technical information on growing Soybeans, please visit our Soybean Growing and Seed Saving Guide.