These beans have an extra-high protein content and are well worth trying in a warm garden. They can be dried and stored for use all winter in a variety of savoury dishes.
Soya beans have more food-value than most other legumes, and an extremely high protein content. The world’s most extensively grown commercial crop, it is less often grown in gardens, although newer varieties now make it a worth while crop in warmer areas. It was introduced into the West relatively recently. There are over a thousand varieties of the plant, with brown, black, green or yellow beans. In appearance, the soya bean plant is dense and hairy all over, with a trifoliate leaf pattern and short pods. The purple or white flowers are not very noticeable. The pods are also hairy, and they contain between two and four beans.
Success with soya beans depends largely on the weather. They need a long, warm growing season, and they take about 100 days to mature. Unlike other beans, the crop gets its signal for flowering from the length of the day, and most varieties have a particular, limited range of day-length in which they can mature properly and produce a satisfactory crop. Each group of varieties is adapted to a different narrow range of latitude, so it is important to choose a suitable variety. In recent years, a variety called Fiskeby V has been produced, and it is particularly suitable for garden-growing in the UK. One or two seedsmen offer it, and it is becoming more widely available as the popularity of soya beans increases.
Choose a sunny spot in the warmest part of the garden for your soya beans, preferably one which was manured for an earlier crop. The best soil is sandy and well-drained. Just before sowing, be sure to remove all weeds. The ground should be raked to a fine tilth.
Soya beans are not like other bean crops, so do not sow them in the same way. They are really a warm temperate to sub-tropical crop, so you must vary your sowing time according to the climate in your area.
In sub-tropical and warm temperate climates you can sow the seed in mid-spring. Sow 4 cm (If”) deep at 15 cm (6”) intervals in rows about 23 cm (9”) apart.
The seeds are quite large, so you can germinate, as a minimum soil tempera- space them carefully at sowing time to ture of 10°C (50) is necessary. Delay avoid thinning later. There should be no sowing until early summer, and then sow problem with germination, so long as the indoors, either in seed-boxes or singly in temperature is around 21 C (70 ‘), and 7.5 cm (3”) pots. Keep them indoors on a the first shoots should emerge in 5-10 sunny windowsill or in a warm green- days. House until germination.
In cool temperate climates (most of seedlings when they are large enough to the UK), outdoor-sown seeds may not handle, spacing them as for seeds sown directly outdoors. The young plants should be protected with cloches, unless the summer is very warm. As a high night temperature in mid-summer (when the plants are flowering) is also needed tor a successful crop, it is a good idea to cloche the plants every night.
Adequate watering is essential for soya beans, as they will produce heavy crops only if the roots are always kept thoroughly moist. Always water profusely during a dry spell. A peat mulch applied just after sowing will help to retain necessary moisture, and it will also keep down weeds. Weeding can be a bit difficult with soya beans; you must never hoe too close to the plants or you could damage the shallow root system.
Although soya bean plants can reach up to 1.8 in (6’) in tropical climates, they almost never grow more than 40-50 cm (18-20”) tall in more temperate areas. Hence, staking is never necessary, as it is with most other beans.
Soya beans are troubled with very few pests or diseases. They can be infected by the fungus Fusariiwi, which causes the plants to wilt and eventually die. This trouble can be avoided by proper crop rotation; never grow soya beans on the same patch for two years in a row.
Greenfly can also be a nuisance, so keep a watch out for these pests and dust or spray with an insecticide if necessary.
Your first soya beans should be ready for harvesting between three and five months after sowing, depending on how favourable the weather has been. You can pick young, green pods and eat them whole, or you can let them mature. Older pods are ready for picking when they turn from green to dark yellow and when they begin to swell with the ripening beams. The best way to harvest is to pull up the whole plant, taking off all the pods at one time. To remove the beans, soak the pods in boiling water for five minutes, then crack them in half and squeeze out the beans.
Soya beans are perhaps most useful when stored and dried for winter use. To do this, lift the entire plant when the pods are yellow and hang them to dry in an airy, frost-free room. When the foliage is shrivelled and brittle, shell the beans. Spread the shelled beans in single layers on trays and dry them in a well-ventilated room. When thoroughly dry, store the beans in glass jars with loose-fitting lids. They will be ready for use in soups, stews and other nourishing dishes throughout the year.