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What is Edamame

Background

Edamame is young soy beans in pods. But not all varieties of soy beans are used to make Edamame due to the reason that not all young soy beans have good flavor and texture. There are several varieties of good-flavor soy beans being made into Edamame which are sold in the current U.S. market. Generally speaking, Edamame does not have the so-called “bean-ny” taste like a matured soy bean does. In fact most American consumers like its flavor even at the first trial, and enjoy eating it afterwards. The beans of all Edamame varieties contain about 40% protein, and are considered a very good source of natural (non-processed) vegetable protein.

Edamame has become popular in the U.S. consumer markets only within the last three to four years when the public became more aware of the goodness of soy products. This is partially triggered by the fact that a few years ago, the medical societies announced that HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) could cause breast cancer, and the alternative way of taking HRT includes eating lots of soy based foods---Soy contains plant estrogens which can balance body hormones. Studies also show the substance in soy (genistein) can improve elasticity of the arteries, and can improve cardiac health. FDA has determined (FDA 21CFR 101.82) that diets low in fat and cholesterol that include 25g of soy protein per day may reduce the risk of heart disease.

Asian people (Chinese, Japanese and Koreans in particular) have been eating Edamame for centuries (over 2,000 years in the case of Chinese people) along with Tofu ----The first known usage of Tofu in China dated 164 B.C. The word, “Edamame” originally means “beans from the branch” in Japanese---Soy beans grow in a cluster with stems connecting the pods. Nowadays people interpret it as “edible soy beans”. In China, people call it “hairy beans”, because of the hairy nature of the pods. A well known dish served in Chinese restaurants is called “Hairy Bean with Shrimp”. But only the beans and not the hairy pods are served in this dish.

Originally, Edamame was introduced to the U.S. by the Japanese restaurants who used it as a snack food while drinking Sake or beer. Out of their custom, they were served quite salty. A well-known Edamame variety served in the Japanese restaurants is in fact called “Beer Friend”. Since three to four years ago, however, Edamame has been consumed as a “health food”, and restaurants have begun to serve them with less salt or no salt at all.

Production

It is well accepted that a good quality premium grade Edamame contains 165 to 170 pods in 500g (1.10 lb) of a ready-to-eat product. With this specification, it will not contain a noticeable amount of the “single-bean-pod” which is not desirable due to larger pod-to-bean ratio---Almost all pods contain either two beans or three beans. Such higher grade Edamame is produced by “quality selection” during the manufacturing process as well as by selecting a good variety soy plant to produce good quality beans to begin with. It should be noted that the larger the pod-count, the lower the quality, because it contains relatively more pods with a single and two beans. In the past three to four years, there has been a great deal of research in developing new soy plant varieties in Taiwan and Japan. The criteria for a good variety of Edamame are good flavor, good texture, larger bean size, greener and brighter color, and that the soy plant is productive and has a strong resistance to diseases. From sowing the seeds to harvest, it normally takes 70 to 90 days. It grows faster in warmer climates such as in Taiwan or in Southern China. In processing the Edamame, generally it goes through washing, “soy pod hair removal”, quality control by removing single-bean-pods and pods with rust spots (due to damages while growing or in processing), cooking, and finally quick freezing and packaging.

Our Product

The variety of our product is modified and improved in quality from the so called Taiwan “Green Light #75”, such as “Kao Shung #3 or #5” developed in Taiwan. The product that we are presenting contains 145 to 165 pods per 500g (1.10 lb)---higher quality than the premium grade mentioned above, and does not contain noticeable amount of “single-bean-pod” (almost all of them are 2 to 3 beans in a pod), or pods with rust spots (due to damages while planting or in processing). The pods are mechanically washed, “de-haired” and single-bean-pods” are removed by automation. This automatic mechanical process is followed by a manual selection to further removing the single-bean-pods as well as pods with rust spots. Prior to cooking, the pods are washed five times with city water which is treated after entering our plant with a water filtration system which removes any possible unwanted contamination. Depending on the maturity of the beans (very slight variation), they are cooked with hot water at 90° to 95° C range (194° to 203° F) for 80 to 100 seconds on a conveyor system. The more mature the beans are, the hotter the water temperature, and the longer the cooking time are used within the ranges described above. No salt is added during the cooking. The hot water is discharged periodically after use. The cooked Edamame are then sent to a blast freezer for quick freezing prior to packaging. The workers handling the cooking process wash their hands every 20 minutes with sanitizing water. The manufacturer is HACCP certified, and has its own microbial laboratory to run the plate count of the final product to ensure that the pods are sufficiently sanitized for contacting the consumers’ mouths while eating Edamame.

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