Friday May 16th 2008, 10:36 pm

edamame, soya bean seeds

There is very little that I miss about living in the city but dropping by a Japanese noodle bar to cheer myself up when the afternoon seems flat as a pancake is one of the few things. A simple bowl of edamame, fresh soya beans steamed in their pods and served in a heap sprinkled with salt, was always a delicious treat guaranteed to raise the spirits.
To eat them, you have to pick up each pod one at a time, holding the pod on edge, then pull the beans from the pods with your teeth, using an empty bowl brought to the table with the beans as a receptacle for the discarded empty pods.
A few years ago I found a little American book about edamame in a bargain book shop, which states that soya bean seeds are now easily available, and I have been searching for the seeds, so I can grow my own, ever since without success. The name, edamame, means ‘beans on a branch’. and they are supposed to be easy to grow, just like growing peas, only they grow as bushes and are self supporting. Like most leguminous plants, they take nitrogen from the air and fix it into the soil, so they fertilise the soil as they grow.
So I was thrilled to find that Thompson & Morgan are now stocking a soya bean seed variety, called Ustie, which is particularly suited to the British climate. The packet says to sow May to early June so I am all set to plant mine this week.

Friday May 16th 2008, 12:19 pm

When Anita Roddick died last year I started to read up on the web about her life, one jam-packed with considerable achievements. One thing I spotted which has stayed in my thoughts ever since, was that she never had bottled water in the house. I wasn’t sure exactly what her reasons were for this but presumed that as she travelled the world she had witnessed the problems of people without access to clean drinking water, thus making the shopping habits of us middle-class westeners seem a tad distasteful. Whatever her reasons, if it wasn’t good enough for Anita, it’s not good enough for me.
As a person who got through my fair share of Perrier during the 80’s (there, it’s out in the open now), I, like many others, bought into the big bottled water consumer boom but over the years I have bought less and less. I do have the occasional yearning for a glass of good old Perrier though, which to my mind now has a retro charm. I hardly see the point these days of buying still water at all and can never remember which, natural spring water or natural mineral water, I should choose as I know that one of them, quite likely, has simply come straight out of a tap. Perhaps if I drank more water I would be able to remember this vital information.
Now as well as ‘spring’ and ‘mineral’ waters we have Drench, ’21st century’ water, brought to us courtesy of Britvic and 21st century water is of course what we need to hydrate our brains. Mind you, I am prepared to forgive them anything after seeing their new TV ad which is fantastic. I was talking about the ad to my brother today and he thought it was an ad for Specsavers, so Britvic, that was money well spent. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it have brand loyalty.