Grow Your Own

Soya beans

Originating in Southeast Asia, these beans are an excellent source of protein and can harvested and dried, or the hairy pods boiled or steamed whole, then shelled for the tender green bean inside. To do well, most soya beans need a long, hot summer with temperatures between 20-30°C (68-86°F), although some modern varieties have been bred to withstand cooler conditions.

Soya beans

Sow

Sow in May and early June 5cm (2in) deep in 7.5cm (3in) pots or trays of seed compost. Put in a propagator, or seal inside a polythene bag, and provide gentle heat to 18-20°C (64-68°F).

They can also be sown directly outside once the soil has warmed up in late spring.

After germinating grow plants on by placing on a light windowsill. Move seedlings into larger pots when roots appear through the drainage holes in the base.

Alternatively, seeds can also be sown directly outside once the soil has warmed up in late spring, ideally under fleece or cloches.

Grow

Gradually acclimatise indoor sown plants to outdoor conditions before planting out after all risk of frost has passed.

Soya beans prefer well-drained but moist soil in a sunny position.

Sow or plant 15cm (6in) apart in rows 45cm (18in) apart.

Plants can grow up to 1.2m (4ft) high, but are mainly self-supporting.

Hoe around plants regularly and keep well watered. Mulching during dry periods will help cropping.

Harvesting

When ripe beans are ready for harvesting, the leaves will start to fall from plants, often leaving just brown stems with lots of hanging pods from late September. The pods remain weatherproof during the autumn, so you can pick as required.

Beans are easy to store on the plants or in airtight containers. Harvested beans must be boiled for at least 10 minutes before eating to destroy any toxins.

Edamame beans are harvested unripe by pulling up whole plants.

Varieties

Envy:Heavy crops of beans up to 60cm (24in).

Black Jet:A tough variety that crops well in poor summers.

Ustie:A fast-growing cultivar that has been bred specifically for the British climate.


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