The immature soybean: a profitable and popular snack
By Tom Collins
Soybean growers who tire of harvesting the grain in the cold weather could try to harvest early and sell the bean as an edamame. Thats Japanese for stem bean, a speciality crop that is popular as a fried and salted or boiled snack in Asia and whose demand is growing in North America.
Edamame is a soybean that is harvested at the R7 stage, usually in mid-August, and sold as a vegetable. About 99 per cent of all edamame consumed in North America is imported from Asia.
There are very few growers in Canada growing edamame, but those who do, see it as an opportunity.
“There was a growing trend and interest in edamame and we quickly decided we needed to start looking at this as an opportunity for us,” said Jason Persall, owner of Persall Fine Foods Co. in Waterford, about 25 minutes south of Brantford. “Its a big market and its growing all the time.”
The farmer, who also grows 500 to 600 acres of mature soybeans, started growing edamame in 2009. This year he grew 50 acres, averaging 40 bushels per acre, and wants to plant 150 acres next spring.
“Were kind of growing it as supply and demand is growing rather than trying to produce it and then sell it,” he said.
Persall presells most of his edamame to restaurants as he said its as profitable as fully-mature soybeans sold as a grain. The biggest challenge has been figuring out the market.
“Youve really got to understand the market youre going to and how big that market is and develop those relationships with those customers,” he said. “We see an opportunity to possibly increase our margins per acre in a market we know exists.”