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URBANA -- Although soybeans
may typically be associated with processed soy products such as
tofu, soy flour, soy milk, margarine and cooking oil, they are also
an edible vegetable in whole bean form. University of Illinois
researcher Richard Bernard has developed 13 varieties of soybeans
called Gardensoy, specifically bred to be eaten as a vegetable on
your dinner plate, alongside peas, carrots and corn but with the
added nutritional punch of protein found in soybeans.
Cary Howrey has been farming for about
15 years and was a guinea pig for Bernard's Gardensoy soybeans when
he was first developing the varieties. Howrey grew many of the
varieties on her farm in Illinois and sells them at a Saturday
morning farmers' market at Lincoln Square in Urbana at her stand
under the name "Garden of Eatin'."
"When I first started selling edible
soybeans," said Howrey, "they were a hard sell to American women.
They thought soybeans were just for animals. Then when soybeans were
in the news saying that soy products were good for women's health,
they started trying my fresh soybeans more. My Asian customers have
always loved them."
Farmers in Japan have been growing
soybeans to be eaten as a table vegetable for centuries, but their
varieties don't thrive in the climate and diseases in the United
States, said Bernard. "I started the hybrid process using Japanese
soybean varieties and crossed them with our own high-yielding
This year, Howrey says that she planted
three varieties so that they will have staggered harvest times
throughout the season, beginning in late August through the end of
October. "The Gardensoy soybeans are bigger and tastier. There are
some black ones that are really tasty -- not oily or bland."
Soybeans can be cooked different ways
depending on when they are harvested, said Bernard. If they are
harvested dry, like pinto beans, Bernard says they need to be taken
out of the pod and boiled for about 40 minutes. "One big mistake
people make is to soak them overnight like they are used to doing
with other dried beans and peas. You can't do that with soybeans
because they turn rancid if they are pre-soaked. Just throw them
into boiling water and cook them for five minutes."
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If the soybeans are picked while they
are still green, they can be boiled or steamed for four or five
minutes, removed from the pod and used just like any other vegetable
in soups and casseroles or eaten alone. "They are bright green, so
they add a lot of color to a dish but not a lot of flavor like
peas," said Bernard. Bernard stressed that unlike green beans,
soybean pods are inedible -- stringy with an unappealing texture.
Bernard released the first six
varieties under the name Gardensoy in 2000, released seven
additional varieties in 2002 and has over 100 varieties that he is
still working on. The 13 varieties already released were selected
because of their good taste, bean size and color. They have
different growth rates so that harvesting can be staggered and
spread out over a longer period of time.
Since large soybean farmers would need
to adapt their equipment in order to harvest Gardensoy soybeans,
Bernard has primarily focused on getting the seeds to small
vegetable farmers and homeowners with vegetable gardens. "We'll
provide 30 to 50 seed packets free of charge to anyone who wants to
try them," he said. Larger quantities are available through Rupp
Seeds in Ohio at 1 (800) 700-1199.
information about Gardensoy soybeans, contact Richard Bernard at
(217) 398-0926 or
firstname.lastname@example.org or visit
of Illinois news release]