From Furry to Flavorful

Big points to anyone who can identify this vegetable. Here's a hint: the Japanese translation is 'Beans on Branches.' 

What? You still can't guess?  Well, you are in good company. Two weeks ago, my friend Lisa and I met at the town farm to pick up our weekly CSA produce share, and this furry mess of green stalks was sticking out of the top of our boxes. Lisa, who knows more about veggies than anyone I know, was momentarily stumped. I was completely clueless.

Turns out, these are edamame (eh-dah-MAH-meh), or fresh soybeans. Lisa figured it out by plucking one of the green fuzzy pods from the stalk, opening it up and nibbling. Who knew that fabulous appetizer of hot, salted pods I always order at sushi restaurants grew on massive, messy stalks? And that soybeans grow in Connecticut?

Certainly not me. And apparently not many others either, as the 'leave-a-veggie / take-a-veggie' bin was overflowing with soybean stalks.  Here's a close-up pic (thank you iPhone) so you can see the beans hidden in the branches.

Having absolutely no idea how to turn this mess of furry stalks into the delicious and nutritious edamame I love to order, I put the pile on the kitchen counter and started googling. Meanwhile my husband, unbeknownst to me, did not await direction (are there any men who ask for directions? Ever?) but simply stripped the pods off the stalks, left them on the counter, then left.  Thank you, Michael!

Stripping the pods from the stalks is the only hard part of this recipe (and you will probably not have to bother as you'll be using frozen soybean pods...because, hey, what are the odds a bunch of fresh soybean stalks has landed in your kitchen?) Once you have pods, it's just minutes to a delicious, healthy lo-co treat.

The recipe I chose (end result pictured here) was penned by Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, both recently on Top Chef Masters, and it's online at the Food Network site: Edamame: Cooked Fresh Soybeans. What I love about this recipe is these are two seriously accomplished chefs so the end result is great, they've made it clear and easy what you should do - and not do, and the recipe calls for either fresh soybean stalks OR FROZEN!

So why should you try edamame? It's ridiculously easy to make and is a terrific high fiber, cholesterol-lowering snack. Here's how a Cooking Light online article (which includes 10- count'em-10 recipes) describes edamame:

"Edamame are as addictive as peanuts but with far less fat―only 3 grams per ½ cup, all of which is the heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated kind. Because they are high in protein (8 grams per ½ cup), they make an ideal choice for getting your 25 grams of soy protein daily, which can help reduce cholesterol when part of a low-fat diet. Edamame also provide 4 grams of fiber per ½ cup."

If you are lucky enough to encounter a bunch of fresh soybean stalks, give it a go - you'll be rewarded with a delicious, nutritious, lo-co treat.

And if no furry stalks are in your future, no problem - just buy frozen soybeans for this low-fat, high-fiber snack or appetizer. It's a rare recipe from a Top Chef that includes a frozen vegetable, and this one is a lo-co, tasty winner.

Going Lo-Co is a blog about one woman's journey to lower cholesterol without medication via food and lifestyle changes and the crazy things that happen along the way.  Read more at www.golowcholesterol.com.

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