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.