Soybeans are one of the most-grown commercial crops in the world, and they are used in a number of ways to feed the world. Since they are such an important food source, genetic engineering is often used in the commercial crops to make sure harvests don’t succumb to pests or poisons. When you grow at home, you can go organic and enjoy healthy, natural soybeans in a number of ways.
Soybeans have been cultivated in Asia for thousands of years, and the beans were eaten as beans. Today, many soybean varietals are hybridized specifically for processing into tofu, soy milk or inedibles, so before you start growing, find a bean that will taste good as a bean. Look for brown or black soybeans from specialty seed sellers.
Soybeans are a hardy plant that has adapted to a number of growing conditions. In general, they are a bit frost tender, so plant them when the soil is 60 F, and they grow best when daytime temperatures average around 70 F. Plant seeds a couple inches apart, then thin to 6 inches apart. Water regularly while flowers and pods form. Do not use nitrogen fertilizers because soybeans (like other legumes) naturally fix nitrogen in the soil and too much nitrogen can throw off the delicate balance.
Harvest soybeans pods for edamame when pods are green, full and plump and 2 to 3 inches long, about half mature. Soybeans for shelling and fresh use are ready for harvest 45 to 65 days after sowing. Dry soybeans require 100 or more days to reach harvest.