Growing Soybeans: Information On Soybeans In The Garden
Soybeans are one of the most popular crops in America today. They have been grown since ancient times and their use continues to increase. There are many benefits to growing soybeans in your garden such as food, fuel, fiber, feedstock and medicine.
The first thing to understand is that there are two types of soybeans, regular and extra firm. Regular beans are those which contain less than 0.9% protein content and extra firm beans contain between 1.0% and 2.5%.
Extra firm means they have a high water content so they don’t break down as easily when cooked like other beans do (see Cooking Tips). These beans can be eaten raw or baked into breads, muffins, cakes etc..
There are different varieties of soybeans. Most people think of yellow and green but there are also red, purple, black and even white ones! All these colors come from the variety of bean. Red beans have a higher oil content than other beans while purple beans have a lower fat content than others. Black beans have a low amount of calories compared to other varieties, however they tend to be very starchy making them not suitable for people with diabetes or those who need to lose weight.
White beans are not grown as much because they have a strong “beany” taste. Most of the time people buy all types of beans either canned or dry and cook them themselves.
Soybeans are a good source of fiber, copper, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, cholesterol-free vegetable protein and vitamin K among other nutrients. They contain no gluten making them suitable for those who are gluten intolerant. They contain more than twice as much protein as other beans making them suitable for vegetarians who do not get enough protein in their normal diet. They do not have any cholesterol.
They are low in fat and have zero saturated fat, but they do contain a certain type of fat that can raise your good cholesterol (HDL) and lower your bad cholesterol (LDL). This makes it one of the best foods for people with heart disease or high blood pressure.
There has been some controversy about soya making you infertile or feminizing you (creating a feminine appearance or traits). Most of this controversy is from research done in rodents and has not shown the same affects in humans. There is however the possibility that it might affect young children. If you are worried about this, it’s best to use alternatives such as pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts and even peanuts.
Soybeans contain something called “Phytoestrogens”. These are plant based estrogens that can act like the human estrogen in the body. These are what most believe cause feminization in males though there is no evidence to support this. They can however help with menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, and can also lower cholesterol.
Before eating or cooking with any type of bean it is best to rinse them off in water first. This washes off any excess fertilizer or pesticides that could be on them. They can then either be eaten raw, added directly to your recipes or first boiled to make them easier to digest. After they have been cooked they can then be added directly to whatever you want.
When buying dry beans look for those that are uniform in color (no black, brown or red ones). Try to get unbroken, smooth ones as well. Check the date to make sure they are not too old. You can keep them in your cupboard for quite awhile, but it is best to use them within a year. When stored correctly in an airtight container, they can keep for much longer than that though.
Canned beans can be kept on your shelf for up to 2 years as long as you don’t open them. Once you do open them, it’s best to eat them within a couple of months otherwise they can grow bacteria.
Beans can be eaten by themselves as a side dish or added to casseroles, salads, soups, stews or any other dish that you would normally add meat to. Some people even make bean burgers or add them to breakfast cereals. They are quite versatile and cheap so they will definitely save you money.
Navy beans are small, oval shaped with a shiny appearance. They are white with a very faint blue marbling on them.
They have a delicate flavor so they are most commonly served simply; boiled with salt pork or bacon. The name comes from the fact that they were a staple food for the sailors in the British Navy. Since they stay softer than most other beans when cooked, they were less likely to give the sailors digestive problems when overseas. In fact nowadays they are still called “Navy Beans” or just “Navy Beans”.
Navy beans are very high in protein, fiber and iron. In fact, they are one of the highest plant based sources of iron. Since they are small, they are quicker to cook and require less soaking time than other types of beans. They can be used in many of the same ways that pinto beans are used. You can add them to soups and stews or even make a dip with bacon, peppers, onion and these beans.
They are slightly more expensive than pinto beans, so use them when you want a “fancy” type bean.
Black eyed peas are smaller than most peas you have eaten before. They tend to look like tiny black orbs with a little white spot in the middle.
They are most commonly served boiled with ham hocks for flavor. They can also be combined with other vegetables such as carrots, cabbage and onions in a soup or stew. They are not only a great source of fiber but they also are high in protein. They have twice as much fiber and only half the calories that most other beans do.
Pintos are probably the best known beans. They are pale yellow in color with a reasonably flat surface and one smooth edge where the pod originally was connected. They are normally served mashed up as refried beans with a little bit of lard, onions and peppers added to them. (Many people add cheese as well, but traditional Mexican cuisine does not include it). They can also be used in soups and stews or even by themselves when thrown on the grill.
Pinto beans are a great source of fiber and manganese. They also contain good amounts of magnesium, vitamin B1, phosphorus and zinc.
Pink Beans are smaller than most beans you have eaten before. They are a little darker in color and tend to look like they have a “pink tone” to them.
They are normally served boiled with either salt pork or ham hocks. They are also great as a base for soups or stews when combined with other vegetables. Pink beans are extremely similar to pinto beans, but the pigmentation is slightly different so there is a slightly different taste. Pink Beans have a fuller flavor than pintos and a smoother texture when mashed.
The price of both these types of beans tends to go up during the winter. Pink Beans are normally much cheaper than pintos. Pink beans may also be called “Baby Beans” or “Small Beans”.
Other Types of Beans
Borlottis are another type of bean that is slightly larger than a lentil but smaller than most other beans. They are a typical brown color and have a flat circular shape.
Borlottis are most commonly served with lentils in Indian curry dishes. In Indian cooking they are normally fried in oil before adding to the pot to give them a crispy taste.
Cranberry beans are similar to navy beans except that they’re smaller and have a reddish-brown color rather than green. Cranberry beans were very popular during the depression because they are packed full of protein and hardly cost anything.
Cranberry Beans can be used in many of the same ways that pinto beans are used. They take a little longer to cook than most other types of beans.
Fava Beans are quite popular in Middle Eastern countries. They are smaller than most beans and have a very “beany” flavor to them.
Fava beans are normally served boiled in their shells. They can also be sprouted and eaten raw in salads. Fava Beans are a good source of both folate and iron.
Kidney Beans are among the most popular beans in the US. They are bigger than most dried beans and have a deep red color with a oval shape. They are often confused with chili beans, but they are smaller and more red in color.
Sources & references used in this article:
Soybeans: The success story by T Hymowitz – Advances in new crops, 1990 – Citeseer
The soybean experiment ‘1000 Gardens’: a case study of citizen science for research, education, and beyond by T Würschum, WL Leiser, F Jähne, K Bachteler… – Theoretical and Applied …, 2019 – Springer
Introduction of the soybean to Illinois by T Hymowitz – Economic Botany, 1987 – Springer
Crops that feed the World 2. Soybean—worldwide production, use, and constraints caused by pathogens and pests by GL Hartman, ED West, TK Herman – Food Security, 2011 – Springer
Growth and yield of vegetable soybean (edamame) in Mississippi by CV Piper, WJ Morse – 1923 – McGraw-Hill book Company …
Dorsett-Morse soybean collection trip to East Asia: 50 year retrospective by L Zhang, S Kyei-Boahen – HortTechnology, 2007 – journals.ashs.org
Overcoming chronic malnutrition in a future warming world: the key importance of mungbean and vegetable soybean by T Hymowitz – Economic Botany, 1984 – Springer