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Edamame in Virginia I: Products and Marketing



Authors as Published

Authored by Xiaoying Li, Doctoral Student, School of Plant and Environmental Sciences; Yun Yin, Assistant Professor, Food Science and Technology; Laura K. Strawn, Associate Professor, Food Science and Technology; Steve L. Rideout, Professor, School of Plant and Environmental Sciences; Thomas Kuhar, Professor, Entomology; Gregory E. Welbaum, Professor, School of Plant and Environmental Sciences; Song Li, Associate Professor, School of Plant and Environmental Sciences; Kathryn Liu, Graduate Student, School of Plant and Environmental Sciences; Kayla Weckworth, Undergraduate Student, School of Plant and Environmental Sciences; and Bo Zhang, Associate Professor, School of Plant and Environmental Sciences. All authors are from Virginia Tech.


Vegetable (or immature) soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merrill] is harvested in the R6 (full seed) development stage, when pods are 85%-90% filled with seed. Unlike grain-type soybean, which is used primarily for vegetable oil and as a source of protein in animal feeds, edamame is consumed as a high-value and nutritious specialty vegetable (fig. 1). It represents a group of large-seeded soybean cultivars that have a bright green color at harvest stage, pods that contain two to three beans, a soft texture, and a sweet and less beanlike flavor (Saldivar et al. 2010).

A single edamame plant with pods, surrounded by more plants.
Figure 1. Edamame plant in the field. Photo by Xiaoying Li.

These soybeans are better known as “mao dou” (hairy bean) in China. The earliest documentation of vegetable soybean comes from poems by Lu You (1125–1210 AD), a distinguished scholar in the Song dynasty, that describe the picking and eating of green soybean pods (Dong et al. 2014). In 1275 AD, the popular name “edamame (branched bean)” appeared in Japan when the Japanese Buddhist Saint Nichiren Shonin wrote a thank-you note to a parishioner in appreciation for his vegetable soybean gift (Shurtleff and Aoyagi 2009). The name “edamame” is later used worldwide.

Charles C. Georgeson and William J. Morse introduced edamame in the U.S. during World War I when they were searching for an inexpensive source of protein (Djanta et al. 2020; Shurtleff and Aoyagi 2009). Today, edamame is a popular soy food in the U.S. It has enjoyed an expanding market with vigorous growth in demand over the past two decades, increasing at an estimated 12%-15% annually (Neill and Morgan 2021). Edamame products are available in most grocery stores, wholesale clubs, and farmers markets, and they are increasingly available in restaurants (Jiang, Rutto, and Ren 2018).

To inform and guide those interested in consuming, growing, processing, and/or marketing edamame in Virginia, this edamame series includes three publications.

1. Edamame in Virginia I: Edamame Products and Marketing (SPES-454P).

2. Edamame in Virginia II: Producing a High-Quality Product

3. Edamame in Virginia III: Handling and Processing From Harvest to Package

The publications describe this new specialty crop and its whole production and supply chain from field to fork in Virginia.

Edamame Products

Edamame is usually processed into three primary end products to meet the market needs of edamame products: (1) on-the-stalk plants, (2) fresh product whole pods and shelled beans, and (3) frozen product whole pods and beans. Growers must consider the target customer and the labor involved to decide which edamame products to sell (Miles, Lumpkin, and Zenz 2000).

Fresh Product: On-the-Stalk Plants

Fresh edamame can be marketed as on-the-stalk plants and sold in grocery stores or farmers markets (fig. 2). Many Asian customers are more interested in purchasing edamame on the stalk, which maintains pod freshness. This product requires the least amount of time and labor for processing and handling. After the edamame plants are harvested by hand, bunch four to six plants together; trim the branches to make the bouquets more aesthetic, marketable, and conveniently sized; remove the top and lower leaves from the plants to expose pods; and remove any blemished pods.

A photo of small plastic baskets that contain a variety of vegetables on a table. The black basket (front, right) contains on-the-stalk edamame plants. An arrow points to this basket in order to identify these plants.
Figure 2. On-the-stalk edamame plants at a local farmer market. Photo by Bo Zhang.

Fresh Product: Whole Pods

Some consumers prefer edamame pods removed from the stems and packed fresh. Pods are removed from plants with a green bean picker in the field or an in-house manual pod stripper, and then sorted and packed. A good quality pod contains two or more beans and has no damage or blemishes. Low temperature and high humidity are very important to preserve freshness and extend shelf life of edamame pods. Fresh edamame plants or pods stored at 32 F and 95% humidity can retain flavor and appearance for up to two weeks (Chiba 1991). According to a study by Saldivar et al. (2011), it is not recommended that edamame be stored at room temperature (77 F) or under open air because the pods started turning yellow on the second day of storage. Most pods and one-third of beans can turn yellow by the fourth day.

Fresh Product: Shelled Beans

Many U.S. customers buy shelled edamame beans, which require an additional processing step (i.e., shelling) after pod picking. Shelling edamame is easy with the right equipment, but hand-shelling is very labor intensive and time consuming. A mechanical sheller is therefore strongly recommended.

Frozen Products: Whole Pods and Beans

Due to the short shelf life of fresh edamame, many edamame industries or companies process edamame and sell it as a frozen product (frozen pods or frozen shelled beans). Frozen edamame alleviates the oversupply of fresh edamame due to the short harvest window and prolongs edamame shelf life, providing edamame availability throughout the year. To freeze edamame, raw edamame pods must first be blanched to inactivate enzymes that would otherwise quickly cause flavor deterioration. The detailed steps for processing edamame have been described previously (Carneiro et al. 2020; as well as in Virginia Cooperative Extension publication SPES-456, Edamame Handling and Processing from Harvest to Package.

Other Processed Edamame Product

Some companies process edamame into canned products, sweets, desserts, green noodles, and dry bean snacks. Edamame can be used to make soymilk that can be further processed into ice cream, tofu, yogurt, etc. Beans sold to restaurants can also be used as an ingredient for salads, sushi, soups, dumplings, edamame hummus, side dishes, and more.

Edamame Nutrition

The nutritional value of edamame is mainly determined by its chemical constituents, such as protein, minerals, vitamins, fibers, and sugars (table 1). Compared to green peas, edamame beans contain six times the caloric value (energy), 60% more calcium, twice the phosphorus and potassium, plus similar quantities of iron, thiamin (vitamin B-1), and riboflavin (B-2) (Masuda 1991). In contrast, edamame contains only one-third of the sodium and carotene of green peas. In addition, edamame contains all the essential amino acids needed by humans and is a good plant-based source of complete protein. Therefore, it can be considered as an alternative to meat and can add diversity to vegan, vegetarian, and other plant-based diets by providing viable proteins (Lord, Neill, and Zhang 2019).

Edamame is also considered a functional food, mainly because it contains isoflavones that are associated with the prevention of several human diseases. Clinical studies showed that isoflavones reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases as well as other diseases, such as diabetes, menopausal symptoms, and osteoporosis diseases (Mebrahtu et al. 2004). Certain varieties containing black or brown seed coats when seeds are mature — reported to accumulate anthocyanins and procyanidins, two antioxidants that could aid in fighting cardiovascular disorders — prevent inflammation and scavenge harmful radicals (Nizamutdinova et al. 2009; Takahata et al. 2001).

Edamame in Virginia I: Products and Marketing


Table 1. Name and amount of nutrition in a 100 gram frozen edamame product.
Composition Quantity
Water 72.8g
Energy 507.0kJ
Protein 11.9g
Total lipid 5.2g
Carbohydrate 8.9g
Fiber 5.2g
Table 1a. Sugars
Composition Quantity
Sucrose 1.1g
Fructose 0.1g
Maltose 1.0g
Starch 1.5g
Table 1b. Minerals
Composition Quantity
Calcium, Ca 63.0mg
Iron, Fe 2.3mg
Magnesium, Mg 64.0mg
Phosphorus, P 169.0mg
Potassium, K 436.0mg
Sodium, Na 6.0mg
Zinc, Zn 1.4mg
Copper, Cu 0.3mg
Manganese, Mn 1.0mg
Selenium, Se 0.8μg
Table 1c. Amino Acids
Composition Quantity
Methionine 0.1g
Cystine 0.1g
Phenylalanine 0.5g
Tyrosine 0.3g
Valine 0.3g
Arginine 0.7g
Tryptophan 0.1g
Threonine 0.3g
Isoleucine 0.3g
Leucine 0.7g
Lysine 0.7g
Histidine 0.3g
Alanine 0.4g
Aspartic acid 1.4g
Glutamic acid 2.0g
Glycine 0.4g
Proline 0.7g
Serine 0.7g
Table 1d. Vitamins
Composition Quantity
Vitamin C 6.1mg
Vitamin B-6 0.1mg
Vitamin A 15.0μg
Vitamin E 0.7mg
Vitamin K 26.7μg
Tocopherol 9.5mg
Folate 311.0μg
Choline 56.3mg
Betaine 4.5mg
Carotene, beta 175.0μg
Cryptoxanthin, beta 8.0μg
Lutein + zeaxanthin 1,620.0μg
Thiamin 0.2mg
Riboflavin 0.2mg
Niacin 0.9mg
Pantothenic acid 0.5mg
Table 1e. Other
Composition Quantity
Cholesterol 0.0mg
Caffeine 0.0mg

Source: United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (USDA 2019).

Cooking and Storage

As a Snack

Edamame is usually consumed as a snack. Fresh edamame pods can be boiled in water or steamed. Steps for these cooking methods are provided below.

  1. Wash the pods and boil them in salted water or steam them for 5-8 minutes. It should be noted that blanching did not significantly affect the composition of amino acids; however, the water-soluble nutrients — including soluble sugars, vitamin C, and isoflavones contents — can be reduced to an extent during boiling, so boiling for a long time should be avoided (Saldivar et al. 2010; Simonne et al. 2000; Song, Gil-Hwan, and Chul-Jai 2003; Tosun and Yücecan 2008).
  2. Place the pods in ice cold water for a minute and then drain the water.
  3. Squeeze the cooked pod between thumb and forefinger to “shoot” the beans into the mouth.

Edamame can also be cooked in a microwave.

  1. Place the pods in a microwave-safe container.
  2. Add a small amount of water and microwave in 1-minute increments until pods become tender.
  3. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, Parmesan cheese, or spices as desired.

As a Vegetable

Edamame beans can be used as a substitute for green peas or lima beans in many recipes. Boil the pods for 5-8 minutes in unsalted water and squeeze the beans into a bowl. Beans can be added into vegetable soups or ground into a paste with miso, which is used to form a thick broth. Beans can also be tossed with a bit of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and served as a vegetable side dish. In addition, beans can be mixed into salads, stir-fried, or roasted like peanuts. More recipes can be found at (Garden-Robinson and Halsted 2022).

How to Cook Frozen Pods

Frozen edamame pods and beans should be cooked without thawing. They are prepared in the same manner as fresh edamame except that less cooking time is needed because frozen edamame has already been partially cooked when blanched.


Compared with dry seeds, edamame has fewer trypsin-inhibitor and indigestible oligosaccharides (Konovsky, Lumpkin, and McClary 1994). However, eating too much at one time can still lead to indigestion. Edamame is a popular snack that can be consumed by the general public, except for those who are allergic to soy or who have uremia or diarrhea, since eating edamame could aggravate these conditions. It is important that consumers who have soy allergies or these conditions are aware of these potential issues.


Fresh edamame beans should be eaten within three days of purchase. Fresh pods packaged in a perforated plastic bag can be kept for about a week under refrigeration. For longer storage, pods can be washed and blanched for one minute to stop the adverse enzymatic reaction, immersed in cool water, drained, patted dry, sealed in zipper bags, and kept in the freezer. Properly frozen edamame will retain its flavor and quality for up to 12 months. Refrigerated food containing edamame should be consumed within four days.


In the past few decades, globalization has provided a platform for the international edamame trade and allowed more people to enjoy the bean’s unique taste as well as its multiple health and nutritional benefits. Edamame is becoming more popular around the world, particularly in the United States. This publication provides information on how to sell and consume edamame to local growers and consumers, which help diversify the vegetable choices on Virginian plates.


This work was supported by USDA-NIFA (Grant No. 2018-51181-28384; Accession No. 1016465); awards of USDA-SCBGP 419441; Virginia Tech Translational Plant Science Center 119815.


Carneiro, R., D. Yu, H. Huang, S. O’Keefe, and S. Duncan. 2020. Edamame Processing: What Do I Need to Know? Virginia Cooperative Extension publication FST-371. Blacksburg: VCE.

Chiba, Y. 1991. “Postharvest Processing, Marketing, and Quality Degradation of Vegetable Soybean in Japan.” In Vegetable Soybean: Research Needs for Production and Quality Improvement, edited by S. Shanmugasundaram, 108-12. Proceedings of a workshop held in Kenting, Taiwan, April 29-May 2, 1991. Taipei, Taiwan: AVRDC publication, Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center.

Djanta, M. K. A., E. E. Agoyi, S. Agbahoungba, F. J.-B. Quenum, F. J. Chadare, A. E. Assogbadjo, C. Agbangla, and B. Sinsin. 2020. “Vegetable Soybean, Edamame: Research, Production, Utilization, and Analysis of Its Adoption in Sub-Saharan Africa.” Journal of Horticulture and Forestry 12:1-12.

Dong, D., X. Fu, F. Yuan, P. Chen, S. Zhu, B. Li, G. Yang, X. Yu, and D. Zhu. 2014. “Genetic Diversity and Population Structure of Vegetable Soybean (Glycine max [L.] Merr.) in China as Revealed by SSR Markers.” Genetic Resources and Crop Evaluation 61:173-83.

Garden-Robinson, J., and P. Halsted. 2022. Field to Fork: Edamame! North Dakota State University Extension Services publication FN1836. Fargo: NDSU.

Jiang, G.-L., L. K. Rutto, and S. Ren. 2018. “Evaluation of Soybean Lines for Edamame Yield Traits and Trait Genetic Correlation.” HortScience 53 (12): 1732-36.

Konovsky, J., T. A. Lumpkin, and D. McClary. 1994. “Edamame: The Vegetable Soybean.” In Understanding the Japanese Food and Agrimarket: A Multifaceted Opportunity, edited by A. D. O’Rourke, 173-81. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Lord, N., C. Neill, and B. Zhang. 2019. Production and Economic Considerations for Fresh Market Edamame in Southwest Virginia. Virginia Cooperative Extension publication AAEC-188P.

Masuda, R. 1991. “Quality Requirement and Improvement of Vegetable Soybean.” In Vegetable Soybean: Research Needs for Production and Quality Improvement, edited by S. Shanmugasundaram, 92-102. Proceedings of a workshop held in Kenting, Taiwan, April 29-May 2, 1991. Taipei, Taiwan: Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center.

Mebrahtu, T, A. Mohamed, C. Y. Wang, and T. Andebrhan. 2004. “Analysis of Isoflavone Contents in Vegetable Soybeans.” Plant Foods for Human Nutrition 59:55-61.

Miles, C. A., T. A. Lumpkin, and L. Zenz. 2000. “Edamame.” Pacific Northwest Extension publication PNW0525. Pullman: Washington State University.

Neill, C. L., and K. L. Morgan. 2021. “Beyond Scale and Scope: Exploring Economic Drivers of U.S. Specialty Crop Production With an Application to Edamame.” Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems 4, article 582834.

Nizamutdinova, T., Y. M. Kim, J. Chung, S. C. Shin, Y. K. Jeong, H. G. Seo, J. H. Lee, K. C. Chang, and H. J. Kim. 2009. “Anthocyanins From Black Soybean Seed Coats Stimulate Wound Healing in Fibroblasts and Keratinocytes and Prevent Inflammation in Endothelial Cells.” Food and Chemical Toxicology 47 (11): 2806-12. 10.1

Saldivar, X., Y.-J. Wang, P. Chen, and A. Hou. 2011. “Changes in Chemical Composition During Soybean Seed Development.” Food Chemistry 124:1369-75.

Saldivar, X., Y.-J. Wang, P. Chen, and A. Mauromoustakos. 2010. “Effects of Blanching and Storage Conditions on Soluble Sugar Contents in Vegetable Soybean.” LWT – Food Science and Technology 43 (9): 1368-72.

Shurtleff, W., and A. Aoyagi. 2009. History of Edamame, Green Vegetable Soybeans, and Vegetable-Type Soybeans: Bibliography and Sourcebook. Lafayette, CA: Soyinfo Center.

Simonne, A. H., M. Smith, D. B. Weaver, T. Vail, S. Barnes, and C. I. Wei. 2000. “Retention and Changes of Soy Isoflavones and Carotenoids in Immature Soybean Seeds (Edamame) During Processing.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 48 (12): 6061-69. 10.1

Song, J., Gil-Hwan An, and Chul-Jai Kim. 2003. “Color, Texture, Nutrient Contents, and Sensory Values of Vegetable Soybeans [Glycine max (L.) Merrill] as Affected by Blanching.” Food Chemistry 83:69-74.

Takahata, Y., M. Ohnishi-Kameyama, S. Furuta, M. Takahashi, and I. Suda. 2001. “Highly Polymerized Procyanidins in Brown Soybean Seed Coat With a High Radical-Scavenging Activity.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 49 (12): 5843-47.

Tosun, B. N., and S. Yücecan, S. 2008. “Influence ofCommercial Freezing and Storage on Vitamin C Content of Some Vegetables.” International Journal of Food Science and Technology 43:316-21.

USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). Agricultural Research Service. 2019. “Edamame, Frozen, Prepared” (SR LEGACY, FDC ID 168411).

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Publication Date

March 29, 2023