Soybeans vs. Edamame

April 6, 2011 under Cooperative Extension

“What is the difference in the soybeans that are grown in Delaware, and the kind we get from China in the grocery store (edamame). Why aren’t Delaware farmers selling them at the farm markets on the roadside?”  These questions were posted on Facebook from a curious reader.  We reached out to our faculty in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences and this is what we have to share:

Edamame soybeans are food grade soybeans versus the typical feed grade soybean grown in Delaware.  Essentially what that means is that the helium (the eye like structure where the soybean attaches to the pod wall) is black in feed grade beans and clear in color on food grade soybeans.  Edamame soybeans are also harvested when the seed fills the pod cavity while feed grade beans which are generally a smaller seeded bean are allowed to dry to about 13.5%  moisture for harvest and storage.  Edamame beans are often picked by hand since the beans ripen from the bottom of the plant up towards the top so hand picking increases yields.  We tried mechanical harvest of edamame beans in Maryland (and maybe even Delaware) using lima bean pickers but it wasn’t a clean harvest and would need a lot of sorting and hand labor to clean them adequately.  I think Schllinger Seeds down near Queenstown, MD has a number of edible soybeans that can be used for  edamame and you can grow them successfully here in a back yard garden.

So there you have it!  Thanks to Richard Taylor, agronomy extension specialist for responding so quickly.


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