I could hazard a guess that a greater percentage of vegetarians, especially vegans, grow their own vegetables than buy them. And, if I did a quick word association game with you and mentioned the term vegetarian, what terms would flow through your mind? Soybeans? Tofu (a soy bean extract)? Bean curd?
So, why don’t vegetarians grow soybeans?
I guess it all comes down to cost. Soybeans, lentils, and many other pulses are essential cereal crops in the western world. The efficiency of producing them en masse reduces their price that it becomes a futile exercise to grow them yourself.
Currently, here in Australia, potatoes and garlic are expensive items to buy in the shops so many home gardeners are growing them in their vegie patches. Carrots are a dime a dozen, and unless you really wanted to grow your own most gardeners would opt for the convenience of buying them.
And this is another reason why gardeners aren’t planting soybeans – convenience. The use of soybeans in many products, including tofu, requires dried beans rather than fresh. So, after you have gone to all the effort of growing them, you then need to hang them to dry (a process that takes a few weeks – and the right conditions) before you get to use them.
Most gardeners might try this once or twice as a novelty, but when you consider the price of buying them retail you would have to be a die-hard purist to continue growing your own.
For my garden I would much rather grow food items that can be eaten fresh – snow peas, sugar snaps, runner beans, broccoli, tomatoes and capsicums. If it needs to be dried before eating then it’s most likely to be cheaper and more convenient to buy.
But, what if you were still eager to grow your soybeans? How would you go about it?
How to grow soybeans
Soybeans can be grown just like any other legume. They need to be supported whilst growing and will normally take between 80-90 days to harvest from sowing. Soybeans are good for the soil and will add much needed nitrogen back making the bed fertile for later crops.
They are susceptible to frosts so it’s best to sow seeds once the soil has warmed up and you should be picking by the start of summer.
They don’t have to be dried once picked but can also be blanched in boiling water until the pods open up. Then store either by freezing or canning for later use.