Add some fiber to your garden and diet. Consider growing edamame (edible soybeans) in this year’s garden.

Soybeans promote overall health and reduce the risk of high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. In addition, the high fiber in soy helps fight colon and some other cancers.

Edamame is an ancient Asian vegetable and is often eaten straight from the pod like peanuts. Edible soybeans are also used to make tofu, tempeh, soy nut snacks, and more. In addition to their high fiber content, the high protein content of soybeans has made them a popular meat substitute.

Soybeans can be grown in a wide variety of soils and climates. They can tolerate adverse conditions, but work best in warm temperatures, full sun, and moist, well-drained soils. Add organics to non-ideal soils to improve drainage in heavy clay soils and increase water holding capacity in sandy and rocky soils.

Try growing one of the edible soybean varieties like Agate, Chiba Green, Midori Giant, and Envy. These taste better and suit your garden and recipes better than field varieties.

Wait for the soil to warm up for quick germination and increased success. Grow edible soybeans in a sunny location. Plant and care for them just like lima beans. Plant seeds three inches apart and one to one and a half inches deep in rows 24 to 36 inches apart. Once the plants sprout and grow, thin them out by removing the weaker seedlings so that the remaining plants are 6 inches apart.

Harvest the soybeans when the pods are plump, green, rough, and hairy. Depending on the variety, they are usually ready for harvest in 80 to 120 days. Check regularly and pick when the seeds are fully enlarged, but before they harden. If you wait too long to harvest the seeds, the taste and quality will be compromised. Since all seed-filled pods usually ripen at the same time, you can pull up the entire plant and harvest the seeds from pods while sitting in a chair in the shade.

Use edamame within two to three days of picking for the best quality. Store fresh edamame in the refrigerator in a perforated plastic bag.

Cook edamame by steaming, boiling, or microwave heating the pods. Let them cool and let the seeds pop out to enjoy. Don’t let any excess go to waste. Blanche, then freeze whole pods or seeds. Or dry the peeled edamame in the oven or dehydrator for year-round use.

Buy seeds and carve space in your garden or in containers for these nutritious vegetables.