It began over five thousand years ago. The soybean grew wild and was cultivated by Chinese farmers. They called them tatou, meaning the “greater bean.” There is a stone mural in Northern China that is believed to date back before the Common Era, showing soymilk and tofu being made. In 2838 B.C. the Chinese Emperor Sheng-Nung wrote about soybeans and listed it as one of five sacred crops, along with barley, rice, millet and wheat. This Emperor researched over one hundred plants for their healing properties and compiled his findings. The translation, The Medical Bible of the Yellow Emperor is the earliest known medical manual.
The Traveling Soybean
The soybean plant was domesticated and its use spread throughout Korea, Japan and Southeast Asia. Because of the vegetarian philosophy of the Buddhist religion, as the religion expanded so did the use of soy. The Buddhist monks became well known for their abilities to produce delicious meals with soy protein.
During the 17th century the Europeans became aware of the soybean via their travels east, but for almost a century all they did was import soy sauce. There is no record of European countries growing soybeans until the 18th century.
Making its Way to America
How soy got to the West is still somewhat uncertain. Some theorize that European traders brought the beans from Asia. Others believe the Chinese immigrants brought beans when they settled here. Even Benjamin Franklin is given some credit for the introduction because he sent seeds from London to a friend in America in 1770. It could have been a combination of all these things. But little by little and then more and more, farmers were growing soybeans on American soil.
In 1904, George Washington Carver discovered that the soybean contained large quantities of oil and protein. In 1909, soy-based infant formulas were introduced. In 1919, the American Soybean Association was formed.
Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, known for his corn flakes cereal from Battle Creek, Michigan, is also credited for giving Americans their first soymilk and meat substitutes made from soy. Dr. Kellogg was strongly influenced by Ellen White, founder of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, whose membership is largely vegetarian.
Today, America is a world supplier for soybeans. The number of scientific studies conducted on soy is constantly growing. As the research continues so will the knowledge of the vast health benefits of this staple food, the soybean.
Dee Overly is an artist who discovered the health benefits of soy milk and now sells a
Soymilk Maker at www.SoymilkCrossroads.com.Stop by to grab a free Vegan recipe book and check out the blog.