Annual legume (Glycine max, or G. soja) of the pea family (see legume) and its edible seed. The soybean plant has an erect, branching stem, white to purple flowers, and one to four seeds per pod. It was probably derived from a wild plant of East Asia, where it has been cultivated for some 5,000 years. Introduced into the U.S. in 1804, it began to be farmed widely as a livestock feed in the 1930s, and the U.S. is now the world's foremost soybean producer. Economically the world's most important bean, the soybean provides vegetable protein for millions of people and ingredients for hundreds of chemical products, including paints, adhesives, fertilizers, insect sprays, and fire-extinguisher fluids. Because soybeans contain no starch, they are a good source of protein for diabetics. Processed for food, soybean oil is made into margarine, shortening, and vegetarian cheeses and meats. Soybean meal serves as a high-protein meat substitute in many food products, including baby foods. Other food products include soybean milk, tofu, salad sprouts, and soy sauce.
Soybeans (Glycine max)—J.C. Allen and Son
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on soybean, visit Britannica.com.
Seen & Heard
What made you look up soybean? Please tell us what you were reading, watching or discussing that led you here.