Growing Nutritious Soybeans

Soybeans are packed with nutrition, includes how to grow soybeans, when to harvest, how to cook soybeans and a nutritional breakdown of this wonder bean.

| April/May 2003

Learn about growing, harvesting and cooking soybeans and the high nutrients available in this versatile plant.

Growing and Cooking Soybeans

Marinated Soybean Salad Recipe
Soybean and Rice Curry Recipe
Roasted Soybeans Recipe
Fresh Soybeans Cooking Tips
Genetically Engineered Soybeans

My discovery of soybeans led to the creation of my seed company, Salt Spring Seeds, in 1986. I was amazed to find that some varieties of this extraordinarily nutritious crop are delicious when baked, boiled or toasted, unlike the indigestible ones sold in many stores (which you may have already tried and rejected). Most varieties available in North America have been bred for animal fodder or for processing into tofu and other soy products, rather than for direct human consumption. Grow or buy the right culinary varieties and you'll get a pleasant, soft-crunchy, mild-flavored superbean that you can use in any dish that calls for regular beans — soups, salads, casseroles, even make your own soynut snack food.

Soybeans have been cultivated for more than 5,000 years, most notably in China and Japan. Unfortunately, today we process this wonderful legume in every imaginable fashion instead of simply cooking it up. Soybeans are very high in protein and are the only legume that contains all nine essential amino acids (the only proteins the human body can't manufacture on its own). They contain no cholesterol and are low in saturated fats and sodium. They are an excellent source of dietary fiber and are very rich in iron, calcium, B vitamins, zinc, potassium and magnesium. But much of this goodness is diminished when they are processed. As the charts below show, tofu contains half as much protein, and much less fiber, vitamins and minerals than cooked whole soybeans.

Despite the exaggeration of protein needs in North America (we don't really need to eat as much as "they" say we do), high-protein crops are becoming more necessary as it becomes increasingly expensive and dangerous for so many humans to eat at the top of the food chain. Vast acreages of soybeans are grown as fodder for cattle and pigs. The heavily subsidized meat and clearly industries extract a heavy toll on both our Water and soil resources. My question is, why use so many resources to grow soybeans to feed animals to feed people, when we could simply be eating these mild, nutty, nutritious beans directly?

The drought tolerance of soybeans is a special asset, as water is becoming an increasingly precious resource. And soybeans require minimal fertilizer because they fix nitrogen from the air. The fact that soybeans can he simply cooked and eaten keeps energy for preparation to a minimum. Freezing and canning are unnecessary, as are fancy plastic packages. In short, organically grown soybeans are probably one of the most eco-friendly and nutritious foods you can eat. And if you grow your own, you'll find that freshly harvested homegrown beans are more digestible and require much less cooking time than most store bought beans.

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