Soybeans prefer full sun, warm weather and nitrogen-rich soil. Plant seeds after the last frost (May 15-June 15) in warm soil with a pH from 6.0-7.0. Mix in a little manure or compost when planting and water thoroughly. Seeds should be spaced 2 inches apart in rows 20-24 inches apart. You'll need a medium to large amount of space in the garden to produce a large enough yield for uses like soymilk or tofu. One pound of soybeans will makes about 8 quarts of milk.
Germination time will be a quick 6-14 days, but soybeans grow to maturity more slowly than other beans. The length of time to harvest depends on the variety and will range anywhere from 60 to 100 days. For this reason, early varieties are best suited to Northern states. Like most crops, soybeans should be rotated 3 out of every 4 years. Common soybean pests include beetles and rabbits, who appreciate their tender leaves.
Seeds are ready when they are fully enlarged in the pod, but before they become hardened. Flowering plants are a signal that harvesting isn't too far off. Pods will be uniformly plump, green, rough and hairy. The beans are generally hard to remove from the pods. To shell them easily, boil them in water for 4-6 minutes. After the pods cool, the beans should squeeze out easily. Make sure you return the nutrient-rich pods to the compost pile.
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As a nutritionist, I remind readers that soymilk is not as nutritious as the labels claim. The USDA allows nutrtion labels on food packages to reflect the value of the RAW food, not the highly processed product in the package. Soymilk, ricemilk, and the like are not ever meant to be thought of as nutritive equals to dairy milk.
This doesn't mean everyone should or can have dairy milk. But do be aware that soymilk does not provide the same nutritive elements as dairy milk. If you can't have dairy milk, enjoy your soymilk, but be aware it's not much of a food. It's basically the water that beans have been cooked and mashed in. Not without some benefit, but cooking water is never the same as a real food.
I just wanted to mention that soy beans are grown using a lot of pesticides, one of the highest of all fruits, vegies etc... So when buying soy products it is best to buy organic, when possible.
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