Adding edamame is Ford for thought - By Diane Wagner

Henry Ford is remembered for inventing the automobile assembly line and changing the method, and cost, of production forever.

But during his lifetime he had a reputation as a bit of a nut, partly (and I mean partly) because of his insistence that soybeans were a wonder of nature.

Ford said ink, paint, fuel and car parts, as well as food, could all be manufactured from the versatile vegetable. He did make a few bumpers and what-nots out of soy, but people generally laughed, clicked their tongues and turned back to Pittsburgh's steel.

When he got older, Ford became fascinated with the purported health benefits of soy and had a chef devoted to creating a whole range of soy dishes. He ate a lot of soy, but he died anyway ? at the age of 84.

Since his death, the Edison Institute is not the only research lab to make house paints, diesel fuel, gear shift knobs, wood glue, pressed boards and molded car parts out of soy.

And food scientists have discovered the antioxidant properties of isoflavones, making soy an increasingly popular staple of a healthy diet.

A relative newcomer on the American market is edamame, pronounced ed-uh-MA-me.

At the very least, the Japanese consider the fresh soybeans an indispensable beer snack; the Oriental version of peanuts. They can be added like peas to soups, stir-frys and salads, or smashed into pastes to fortify anything from mashed potatoes to desserts.

I can hear a whole section of society, including most of my loved ones, saying "eww, gross" right now.

Granted, a half-cup of edamame has eight grams of protein, five grams of fiber and three grams of fat n compared with 28 grams of fat in the same-size serving of dry roasted peanuts. In addition to the high isoflavone content, the beans also provide a useful amount of Vitamins A and C, iron and calcium.

But is that any reason to actually eat the stuff that comes out of those hairy green pods?

That brings me to the reason I chose this topic for my column this week: I want to tell y'all that they taste good. Better than peanuts and peas, in fact.

After reading about this super-bean, I bought a bag from the frozen food section in a Publix last fall. I'm all for healthy eating when I'm planning a menu or shopping but, when I get my food home, I always wish I had gotten the pizza rolls instead.

So my little sack of edamame sat neglected in the freezer for eight months, until I went to a party this weekend where there were bowls of the boiled pods. They're absolutely addicting with their mildly sweet and nutty taste.

After I made a pig of myself, I went home, tossed my freezer-burned soybeans out for the birds and rabbits, and bought a new supply. This time I'm looking forward to exploring the culinary world of edamame.

But I want to point out that this new revelation still does not prove that Henry Ford wasn't crazy.

Diane Wagner covers county government for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or dwagner@henryherald.com.