Soybeans have been popular for years in Asian countries, and that popularity has caught on here in North America as well. One common preparation method involves simmering the beans in the pod in salted water. The seeds are then eaten out of the pods. We know them, when prepared this way, as edamame. The seeds are also excellent roasted.
Soybeans contain all nine essential amino acids, have no cholesterol and are low in saturated fats and sodium. They are an excellent source of dietary fibre and are high in iron, calcium, B vitamins, zinc, lecithin, phosphorus and magnesium.
You do need a bit of space if you are planning to grow enough soybeans to feed a family. But, if you like soybeans, it will be well worth it; most commercially available soybeans are not organic.
Sow seeds directly into the garden after the last frost date has passed and the soil has warmed up. Seeds can be planted quite closely together when space is at a premium, but ideally, give them at least twelve inches.
Growing Organic Soybeans
Soybeans grow best in full sun but tolerate some light afternoon shade. The soil should be of average fertility and well drained. Mulching the area to help conserve soil moisture is a good idea. Soybeans rarely need any additional fertilizer; too much will result in lots of leaves at the expense of pods.
Soybeans grow well in traditional garden beds, in raised beds, and even in containers.
Soybean yields are very heavy, and fifty to sixty plants would be enough to feed a family of four. Harvest the beans when the pods are plump and full but the seeds are still tender and green. The pods can also be grown to maturity and the beans dried for use in soups and stews. To dry the beans, you can just pull the entire plant out and hang it in a basement or garage, then harvest the beans once they have fully dried. You can also freeze your soybean pods for later use. Just blanch them first (boil them for thirty to sixty seconds, then dunk them into ice water to stop the cooking process) then freeze them on cookie sheets. Put them in plastic bags or other containers once they are fully frozen.
Tips for Growing Soybeans
Soybeans are very ornamental, with attractive leaves and plentiful flowers. They can be used to make low, temporary hedges or planted in small groups in a border. You can also grow them in containers, where they make for a pretty and unique addition to a container garden.
Soybean Problems and Pests
Soybeans aren't prone to many problems. However, leaf spot, bacterial blight, rust, bean beetles and aphids can cause problems.
Recommended Soybean Varieties
G. max is a bushy annual that produces clusters of large-seeded pods. There are several available soybean cultivars.
- ‘Beer Friend’ is used primarily for edamame.
- ‘Black Jet’ matures in less than 100 days and is a favorite when seasoned with garlic, ginger, molasses and cumin as a snack.
- ‘Butterbean’ is ready in 90 days bearing bushy plants with delicious, green seeds.
- ‘Karikachi No. 3’ is the ideal edamame soybean, ready in 90 days.
Many other varieties are available, so look around and experiment. Most seed catalogs have at least a few varieties available to order. I've even seen them on the racks at my local nursery from time to time.
If you are a fan of edamame, it's worth growing your own organic soybeans. It's easy, and you'll have an attractive plant to add to your garden!