The History of Soy

The soybean has a long history and a very long journey through out the world. This journey, lasting almost 27 centuries, changed the world that we know today. Soy products feed a large part of nearly every country’s inhabitants, as well as various non-edible uses. The soybean was first cultivated by the Chinese. It then spread further throughout China and to other countries around it. Some time after the domestication of the soy plant, Europeans too learned about the uses of the soybean and they started to grow it. Much later, with a hand from Benjamin Franklin, the soybean made it’s journey to America. The soybean has had a lengthy journey, and one that has effected the whole world.

Soybeans were first used as early as the 11th century BC by the Chinese. Soybeans were honored by the ancient Chinese and the emperor Sheng-Nung named it as one of the five sacred plants. Included with soybeans rice, wheat, barley, and millet. Soybeans were used in this early civilization both as food and also as a medicine. Perhaps the soybean actually helped cure sicknesses because of the vitamins that it contains. Centuries after the soybeans were being used by the Chinese, they were domesticated and it is now said that they could be one of the first crops ever to be grown by humans. It wasn’t long after this when the rest of the world learned about the benefits of the soybean.

Hundreds of years after the Chinese first discovered the uses of the soy bean and the domestication of the soy plant, other parts of the world started using the soy bean too. By the first century countries such as Korea started using the soybean. Soybeans also became more widely used throughout china and had spread to Central and southern china. It want until the 7th century when many other countries started using the soy bean such as Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Burma, Nepal and northern India. Soy was commonly used as an ingredient in the early ages of it’s history and was used to make tofu, miso, and tempeh. Meanwhile the other European countries still were still not using the unfamiliar bean.

Long after Asia had started using the soybean, in the 17th century, Europeans started using the bean that they had seen in travels to Asia. Yet, even then all they did was import soy sauce from China. Finally by the 18th century soybeans were being grown in European countries. Much later, the first soy plant touched American territory. In 1770 Benjamin Franklin sent his friend, a botanist, seeds of a soybean. Unfortunately Franklin’s attempt was unsuccessful to spark the interest of America. The true time when soybeans were finally introduced into America was when a ship full of soy plants used as ballast landed at a dock. A few farmers interested in the plant decided to try and grow them, at last the soybean was being grown in America. Since 1929 the soybean crop has increased form 9 million bushels to over 2.8 billion bushels.

In America soybeans began to flourish flourish, on the farms and on the markets. In 1904 George Washington Carver a famous chemist discovered that soybeans contain large amounts of protein and oil. Later on in 1919 William Morse helped found the American Soybean Association. Henry Ford known for making automobiles made a car with all of the plastic made from soybeans! However it wasn’t truly until the 1940’s when Soybean farming rocketed.

Soy has a long history and despite it’s long journey,it still can not rest, for even today, people are still finding new uses for soybeans.

About the Author

Francesca Black works in marketing at Organic Items and Pilates Shop leading portals for organic products and natural excercise.