In East Asia, soybeans are used in a multitude of forms, e.g., as soy sauce, soybean meal, vegetable oil, tofu (bean curd), miso (fermented soybean paste), and soy milk, and as a coffee substitute. In the United States, soybean products such as tofu, miso, and soy milk have become especially popular in lowfat and vegetarian diets (see vegetarianism). The green crop is used for forage and hay, and the cake as stock feed and as fertilizer. Soybean oil is used commercially in the manufacture of glycerin, paints, soaps, rubber substitutes, plastics, printing ink, and other products.
Cultivation of the soybean, long confined chiefly to China, gradually spread to other countries. During World War II soybeans became important in both North America and Europe chiefly as substitutes for other protein foods and as a source of edible oil. In the United States they are now a leading crop, and Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay also are significant soybean-exporting nations. China and Japan are by far the largest importers of soybeans.
Soybeans are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Rosales, family Leguminosae.
See M. M. Lager, The Useful Soybean (1945); J. P. Houck et al., Soybeans and Their Products (1972).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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