Origin of the Soybean


The soybean (Glycine max) is perhaps the world’s oldest food crop, and for centuries, nutritionally speaking, they have meant meat, milk, cheese, bread, and oil to the people of Asia. Soybeans can be traced back to China as early as the 11th century B.C. According to Chinese tradition, people of this region were nomadic food-gathering people, and became sedentary food-producing agriculturalists after Shen Nung, the “father of agriculture and medicine,” taught his subjects how to cultivate. The emergence of the soybean as a domesticated plant occurred during the Chou dynasty (1027-221 B.C.). As this dynasty expanded and trading increased, the soybean migrated to southern China and southeastern Asia. Soybeans have been an important source of food for Asian countries for over 5,000 years.

Soybean field photo courtesy of McBeth


The Legume's Latin Name


From the Greek "glykys" (meaning sweet), Linnaeus named this genus Glycine. The word max came from Linnaeus’s book Species Plantarum, where he first described and classified the soybean under the name Phaseolus max. In 1917, Elmer Drew Merrill argued that according to international botanical rules, the correct botanical name of the soybean should be Glycine max. Combining these two terms as proposed by Merrill, Glycine max is the scientific name for the more commonly known soybean.

 Boiled soybeans courtesy of Unite

Now that we've discovered the soybean's origin and history, let's find out where it grows by clicking here.




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