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Soybeans are small, edible beans that are housed in green, fuzzy pods and are harvested when they are young. The pods are 3 to 8 centimeters in length, and as they mature, they dry out and turn a golden yellow. Each pod contains up to 4 oval-shaped green beans, each measuring 5 to 11 millimeters in length. Young Soybeans have a soft texture and a mildly nutty, slightly sweet, starchy floral flavor. Soybean pods grow in 3 to 5 clusters on the Soybean plant, which can reach more than 2 meters in height.
Soybeans are available year-round.
Soybeans are botanically classified as Glycine max, and belong to the pea family. There are two main types of Soybeans: vegetable Soybeans and grain-type Soybeans. Vegetable Soybeans are generally larger and are grown for culinary use, such as Edamame, whereas grain–type Soybeans are primarily used for the production of soy products (soy sauce, tofu, tempeh, Soybean oil) or as animal fodder. Raw Soybeans are toxic to humans as they contain trypsin inhibitors that affect digestion and can lead to organ damage. They MUST BE COOKED with wet heat or fermented to be fit for consumption.
Soybeans are a source of complete protein, and contain the 9 essential amino acids required for the human diet. Soybeans also have high levels of healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, and vitamins C and E.
Soybeans MUST BE COOKED and removed from the pod before consumption. They are used in Chinese and Japanese cuisines in dishes like Edamame, and are commonly blanched, boiled or steamed. Soybeans pair well with flavorings like ginger, garlic, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and red pepper flakes. They can be served with chopped nuts like almonds, peanuts or cashews, spring onions, mint or coriander. Fresh Soybeans are highly perishable. Whole Soybeans can be stored for up to a day in the refrigerator, whereas cooked and shelled Soybeans can be frozen for up to 3 months.
In 2008, the Merriam-Webster dictionary recognized “Edamame” as a term referring to immature Soybeans in the pod. The word Edamame is Japanese for “beans on a branch”, and was first recorded as a name for Soybeans in 1275 CE in Japan. Edamame is also the given name for a dish prepared by boiling or steaming Soybeans served with salt, but has since become synonymous with the immature Soybeans themselves.
Wild Soybeans are native to China, Japan, Korea and Russia. It is unclear exactly when the wild Soybean was domesticated, but Chinese cultivation was recorded as early as 7000 BCE. By the time of the Zhou Dynasty in China (1046 BCE – 256 BCE), Soybeans were seen as an important agricultural crop, used for both food and medicine. They were introduced to North America by an East India Company sailor in 1765. By the mid-20th Century, Soybeans gained popularity in the United States as they were used both fresh and canned after both World Wars. Today, Soybeans can be found worldwide.
Recipes that include Soybeans. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Garlic & Zest||Blistered Edamame|