Special Advantages Of The Soy Bean

This vegetable, which grows in China, principally in the province of Manchuria, is really a curiosity among vegetable foods; and since it is so very rich in various component parts of the main food groups, we are probably not going too far in calling it the most valuable plant we know of, Leguminous vegetables and cereals are rich in albumin and carbohydrates, but the soy bean not only contains these substances, but also another most valuable foodstuff, in which it far exceeds both the leguminous vegetables and cereals, namely, a large amount of fat. The albumin content of the soy bean is from 27 to 33 per cent., the carbohydrates amount to between 10 t0 35 per cent., and the fat content from 17 to 22 per cent. This is indeed a combination scarcely to be found in any other plant, and the nutritive value in the completeness of its composition surpasses the most valuable animal foods. Since it contains all three of our principal food groups, it plays much the same rôle as milk, while exceeding the latter in its wealth of nutritive substances. However, the soy bean offers the objection that when eaten whole nearly 5 per cent. is lost in the intestines, owing to the cellulose which it contains. This objection is done away with when it is eaten in purée form, or as a fine flour.

All leguminous vegetables are rich in lecithin, especially lentils, but in this respect the palm must be accorded to the soy bean. It likewise exceeds the other leguminous vegetables and many other plants as well in its phosphorus content. As I see in the recently published “Dissertation on the Phosphorus Content of Various Indian Foods,” by Jebbink, the Dutch East Indian “Katjang Kedelen,” a variety of soy bean, contains 1.19 per cent. of phosphoric acid.

This wonderful vegetable, in addition to its valuable con-tents, has the further advantage that it can be used in so many useful foods. We have already referred to the flour made from the soy bean. From this, when mixed with white flour or any other desired sort, a bread can be made with such a high albumin content as is hardly otherwise possible; biscuits can also be made from the soy-bean flour which are very valuable for diabetics, because of the low carbohydrate content. The products made with this flour have an agreeable taste, some-what resembling that of the chestnut. A kind of milk can also be extracted from soy beans, if they are allowed to lie in water for several hours and are then mashed or pressed out. And just as with any other milk, a cheese can be made which is very nourishing. Through fermentative action valuable nutritive products can be made from the bean : the Tofu cheese is most nutritious, and a sauce, “soy sauce,” is also, made from it, which looks exactly like meat extract, and, in my opinion, also tastes much like it. I found it a pleasant addition to other viands, and it is no doubt free from the injurious effects of the genuine meat extract. An oil can also, be made from the soy bean, and in Manchuria one sees in all the cities and many smaller towns such oil mills. They are, to be sure, of rather primitive construction, but serve to provide the Chinese of these regions with the fat so much in demand. A substance resembling butter, a thick cream, can be made from this wonderful bean ; it tastes much like “Maroni crême.” And lastly I must not forget to mention that when the beans are allowed to sprout under glass the sprouts do good service as a green vegetable. I tried to eat these sprouts raw, and found them quite palatable. I might also mention that a kind of macaroni is made from the soy bean, and Wein states that a very good tasting soup can be made with these beans together with peas. They may also be cooked together with other vegetables, as potatoes and rice. A purée on the order of the Italian “polenta” can likewise be made. When the whole beans are eaten they are poorly assimilated, and, according to Osawa, 37.4 per cent. of the albumin is lost, while when eaten in the form of To-fu only 3.9 per cent. is lost.

It would certainly be well to transplant these wonderful beans into Europe; they much resemble our beans, but are somewhat more round. There are yellow, green, black, and several other varieties. Attempts were made in France to plant this bean, but unfortunately when it becomes acclimatized in Europe it has a tendency to graft itself upon our native bean, and thereby loses its own properties. This might perhaps, in my opinion, be obviated by proper fertilization, for, while in Chinese soil the nutritive content of these beans is much greater, the cause probably lies in the fact that this soil, as has been shown by examinations recently made at Erfurt, is much richer in nutritive substances and salts—particularly phosphorus—than ours. It would therefore be necessary to fertilize according to the composition of this plant, with a considerable amount of nitrogen and phosphates.