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Once in the sixties my family was at a root beer stand along one of the rural highways that were still busy with traffic in the time before the interstates.  Nearby was a field of soybeans.  A man came up to my father and asked him what those plants were.  Although my father was polite in later tellings he found it very funny that someone would not know what soybeans were.

Still soybeans were a fairly new crop in this area in the 1960’s.  Most farmers had only been growing them for about twenty years at that time.  However they had become so familiar in that short time that the outsider who didn’t recognize them seemed funny.  I suppose we all have the habit to some extent of thinking that the things that are familiar and obvious to us should be familiar and obvious to all others.  And it does seem to be the theme of many comedies to place someone in an unfamiliar environment and watch their problems in understanding.

Anyway the picture above is of some soybeans which are dry and ready for harvest.  That is pretty much what most of the soybeans in the Midwest look like now.   So hopefully if you did not know before now you will recognize soybeans and avoid falling victim to the ridicule of farmers.  Other times of year it is really fairly easy to recognize soybeans.  Today in the Midwest there are mostly only two crops that are grown, corn and soybeans.  For most of the growing season corn is much taller than soybeans.  So if you see a field you are usually safe in assuming that the short plants are the soybeans.

  1. Kate
    October 15, 2009 at 8:10 am

    Nice article and photo, too. I’m wondering if you have any idea why the frozen green soybeans (edamame) that are sold in natural food stores and supermarkets all seem to be imported from China. I don’t think I’ve ever found any that were grown here in the US except when I’ve purchased them fresh from farmers’ markets.

  2. October 15, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    I’m not sure why that is. I have never seen them grown locally except for at the Farmer’s Market either.

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