Soybeans – Glycine max


“Corn and soybeans,” he says,
“because of the give and take
of nitrogen, that’s why we
switch it out. Everything is
give and take, you know?”

I nod. I know.

By Giaco Furino 

For over 5,000 years the Soybean has been cultivated in the Far East. It has been a dietary staple and was declared one of 5 sacred grains along with along with barley, wheat, millet and rice. During the Chou Dynasty fermentation was discovered which allowed the soybean to be used for something other than a nitrogen fixing product in agriculture. Since the invention of fermentation soy is now used as tempeh, miso, tamari, soy sauce and tofu.

In cooking here in the west soybeans play an important part in the diet of many vegetarians due to its high protein content. Due to the protein level present it can make a good meat substitute with other protein sources added (like cheese or eggs, if a lacto-ovo diet is followed). For people who are lactose intolerant soybeans make a good milk substitute, as well. Dried soybeans are ground to make soy flour that can be found included in Spanish sausages (chorizo, salchichon, and mortadella). Soy flour is also found in doughnuts, and soup stock cubes. The green immature beans is becoming increasingly popular. A dried type is used as a snack, and fresh, frozen, or canned Edamame are finding their way to more and more grocer’s shelves.

In Chinese Traditional Medicine the soybean was used for the proper functioning of the bowels, heart, kidney, liver, and stomach. The root is treated as astringent. Flour of the beans is used in foods prepared for the diabetic in China! The fermented seed is used in the treatment of colds, fevers and headaches, insomnia, irritability and a stuffy sensation in the chest. The flowers used to treat blindness and the white, opacity of the cornea.

According to ancient Japanese mythology soybeans are a gift from the gods. One day Ukemochi met the moon God Tsukiyomi, he asked her for food. She vomited great quantities of food…The moon god was offended and killed her. From her body sprang a wide variety of vegetables…rice, and beans, millet, wheat and soybeans, also a cow and horse!

Yearly in the spring during the Setsubun festival (demon cleaning day) many people throw roasted soybeans outside their homes, often at a person wearing a demon mask, and yell  “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” (“Oni go out! Blessings come in!”)

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