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The growing popularity of soya bean products

Soya beans and soya-based products like tofu, miso and tempeh are becoming ever more popular. Soya beans are oval in shape, but they vary in size and colour depending on the type. In Germany, the yellow dried beans are what you'll find most readily available. They contain high-quality protein, valuable unsaturated fatty acids, iron, B vitamins and roughage.

Cooking with soya beans

You can use soya beans much as you would other types of beans – in stews, as a vegetable, in salads, or to make fricadelles. Generally better known and more important in the kitchen are products made from soya beans. To start with, there's soya oil which has a fairly neutral taste and can be used for salad dressings, but also for frying and sautéing. Then there are "shoyu" and "tamari", savoury, salty sauces made from fermented soya beans, sometimes mixed with wheat or rice. With their intense flavour, they are used primarily to flavour various dishes. Soya milk is another popular product; it's made from soya beans and water and can replace cows' milk in most dishes. It's a boon for people with milk allergies, although they need to be aware that it contains far less calcium.

Miso and tofu

Miso is made by grinding up dried soya beans and adding various microorganisms such as moulds, yeasts and lactic acid bacteria. Miso paste made using traditional methods has to mature for several years. Miso is the basis for soups and sauces. Tofu is the Japanese name for a kind of soya soft cheese; it's made from soya milk curds. It's firmer than cottage cheese made with cow's milk and tastes almost completely neutral unless it's been specially flavoured. You can add tofu cubes to a salad or a hot vegetable dish, either as they come or fried, mash it as the basis for fricadelles and use it in fillings and in baked dishes. Tempeh looks rather like tofu, but has an aroma like a blue-veined cheese. For vegetarians soya products are a popular substitute for meat.

Origin and cultivation

The soya bean, originally from East Asia, is one of the oldest cultivated plants. Nowadays most soya is grown in the USA, Brazil or Argentina. In Europe, Italy is the main soya-growing country, although the area under cultivation in Germany is increasing. In 2012, the area planted with soya beans was around 5,000 hectares, by 2014 this had doubled and in 2015, two states – Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg ­ already had 11,000 hectares of soya beans in cultivation.


Source: Heike Kreutz, www.aid.de