Characteristics of soybean

Characteristics an uses of soy

What is soy?

SOYBEAN or SOY is a legume of the family of the Papilionaceae, to which other well known plants belong, such as beans or peas.

Origin of soy

Soy has its origin in Southeast Asia. We have traces of its existence in China more than 5000 years ago and its use as food is documented in this country in the year 2800 BC.

From there it was taken to Europe in the eighteenth century and the United States in the early nineteenth century. It is in this country where its cultivation acquired greater importance within Western countries until United States became the first producer in the world and a major exporter to other countries that need it.

Brazil is the second producer in the world before Argentina that surpasses China and India. In Europe the largest producer is Italy.

Description of the soybean plant

Illustration of a sprout of soybean plant, flower and fruits (pods)

The current soybean comes from the species Glycine ussuriensis, which grows wild in China and Japan.

It is an annual plant up to 1.5 m high. Erect stems covered with a thick, brownish-brown hair.

Leaves alternate, trifoliate with oval leaflets and short peduncles; the basal, simple.

Flowers whitish or white – violet 5-6 cm long grouped in clusters.

The fruits are legumes up to 7 cm in length with one or four seeds inside. These have different colors depending on the variety concerned (mainly yellow, black or green).

Why soy is so popular in China and East Asia?

soybean seeds
Yellow soybeans are those that are grown for the production of vegetable drinks, soy flour, and most edible soy products for human consumption.

Because  the Eastern religions prohibited the consumption of animal meat, so soy was imposed from the beginning as an essential crop in the East to supply proteins that could not be acquired from meat.

In fact, in these regions it is known as »meat from the fields» or »veal from China», since it is often used as a substitute for meat.

Varieties of soy

There are many cultivated varieties of soybeans, which are classified into 10 groups, taking into account the duration of their life cycle. Among all we could mention the following:

  • Amsoy
  • Beeson
  • Williams
  • Cutler
  • Kent
  • Kingsoy
  • Gallarda

Uses of soy

Soybeans, along with potatoes, corn and millet are the staple foods in China.

Soy was used and is still used in the East as a food, either in its simple form, as a legume, or through some of its derivatives: tofu, soy milk, miso, soy bean sprouts, soy sauce, etc.

All of these products, and especially those derived from soybeans, are becoming more and more widespread in other parts of the world.

In the West, the use of this legume focuses mainly on the production of feed for livestock, in the preparation of edible oils, industrial lubricants, in vegetable fats for both food in the form of margarines, as for industry, paints or other industrial derivatives.

* Related information:

Soy toxicity

Soy contraindications

Soy for babies and children

Soy lecithin

punto rojo More information about soy.

This article was endorsed by Elisenda Carballido - Dietitian nutritionist. Postgraduate in Phytotherapy and master in Nutrition and Metabolism.
Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

22 March, 2022

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