I am sure you are familiar with soybeans, but probably not in the way we’ll describe it. If you frequently visit health food stores, or the health food section of your supermarket, you’re bound to have seen this vegetable in its dried form. It’s a substitute for meat in many dishes, and it’s used to enhance the nutritional value of numerous foods.
Surprising as it may seem, the soybean is a nutritious and versatile green vegetable. While we’re all fairly familiar with the many uses of dried soybeans, most of us haven’t had much exposure to fresh soybeans. My information was provided by retired Extension Vegetable Specialist Jim Stephens.
There are two main types of soybeans. The one cultivated most frequently is the agronomic or field soybean. It represents 99 percent of all soybeans grown in our country. The second type, which we’re emphasizing, is the vegetable soybean, which is grown for fresh or green mature consumption. The vegetable type is about one-and-a-half to three times larger seeded than the field type.
While few Americans think of soybeans as a vegetable, it has been used as a vegetable in Asia for over 1,000 years. The varieties suitable as a vegetable are different from those used as a field crop. Major vegetable varieties are “Verde”, “Disoy”, “Bansei”, “Gaint Green”, Fuji”, and “Seminole”.
Aside from their good taste and high yield, green soybeans have excellent nutritional value. Fresh soybeans are very high in vitamin c, and they’re also high in protein, containing about three times the protein of milk and about half that of red meat. Fresh soybeans are relatively high in calories, because of their seven percent fat content. Fortunately, this is good quality vegetable fat. Soybeans also contain sizeable amounts of other vitamins and minerals.
As with most fresh vegetables, soybeans should be eaten as soon after harvest as possible. Eating quality and nutrition value begin to decrease within several hours after the beans are picked.
You’ll have an easier time removing the seeds if you place the unshelled beans in boiling water for about three minutes. This will soften the pods, and allow the tender beans to be split out by hand. As a garden-fresh vegetable, soybeans can be prepared like any other fresh shelled beans. Soybean seeds also make excellent bean sprouts.
For more information on edible soybeans contact your county extension office or www.http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu and see Vegetable Gardening in Florida by James M. Stephens, Vegetable Production Handbook for Florida, Vegetable Gardening Guide or IFAS Publication SP 103/VH 021: Florida Vegetable Garden Guide.