History of Soy Sprouts (100 CE to 2013)

William Shurtleff, Akiko AoyagiISBN: 978-1-928914-54-9

Publication Date: 2013 Jan 22

Number of References in Bibliography: 1524

Earliest Reference: 100 CE

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What Are Soy Sprouts?

Soy sprouts are whole soybeans that have been washed, soaked in water, then placed in a container with holes in the bottom and allowed to germinate or sprout for 5-7 days until the sprouts are 2-6 inches long. They should be rinsed several times a day while they are sprouting.
Inexpensive, tasty, and easy to grow at home, soy sprouts are a fresh vegetable that can be grown in your kitchen at any time of year. Sprouts require much shorter cooking times that dry seeds. In places where fuel (or water) are in short supply, this can be a major advantage. During the sprouting process, the flatulence-producing carbohydrates largely disappear. Sprouts are a rich source of protein and various vitamins, especially vitamins B and C. The large (usually yellow) seed attached to each sprout distinguishes soybean sprouts from all other sprouts. Both the bean (cotyledons) and the sprout (hypocotyl) should be eaten together. Like all soyfoods, they should not be eaten raw. Cooking (steaming, boiling, sautéeing, baking, etc.) for at least 7 minutes is necessary to eliminate their raw, "beany" flavor and to inactivate the trypsin inhibitors they contain.
Countries Where Soy Sprouts are Consumed in Asia:
Soy sprouts are used in most countries in East and Southeast Asia which have a large Chinese or Korean population. They are most widely consumed in Korea. In China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Cambodia and Thailand they are fairly widely consumed, but probably not as much as mung bean sprouts. In Japan they are consumed, but not widely.
Names of Soy Sprouts in Asia:
Chinese – Mandarin – pinyin: douya, dou ya, dou-ya, huangdouya; da dou ya or da dou-ya
Chinese – Mandarin – Wade-Giles: touya, huangtouya, huang tou ya or huang tou-ya
Chinese – Cantonese: dai dau nga choi, ngunn nga choi; wong dow ga or wong dow gna; dow ngaah, dow ngah, dow gna; hwang dow ya, hwang dow-ya; ngah choy
Chinese – Fukienese: – tau ke
Filipino: togue, utaw
Indonesian: taugé or tauge or taugeh (of Chinese origin)
Japanese:daizu no moyashi
Khmer / Cambodian: Sondek bondos
Korean: kongnamul or kong namul or k’ong namul
Thai: taun gawk
Vietnamese: gia
      In southern Vietnam it is called: gia dau nanh.
      In northern Vietnam it is called gia do tuong.
A Brief History of Soy Sprouts:
100 CE – Soy sprouts are first grown and used in China during the Han dynasty – but only as a medicine. Soy sprouts are first mentioned in China in the Shennong Bencao Jing [Classical pharmacopoeia of Shennong (Wade-Giles: Shen Nung), the Heavenly Husbandman]. The text refers to dadou huangjuan [four Chinese characters; yellow + curls + big + bean] for use as a medicine, not as a food (Huang 2000, p. 295).
1200 CE (approx.) – The earliest known document that mentions the preparation and use soy sprouts as a food in China is the Shanjia Qinggong or Shanjia gongqing [Basic Needs for Rustic Living], by Lin Hong. It appeared during the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279). Bean sprouts were apparently a common article of food during the Song dynasty (960-1279) (Huang 2000, p. 296).
1767 – Soy sprouts (probably) are first mentioned in an English-language publication or in the American colonies by Henry Yonge of Savannah, Georgia. Yonge got his information from Samuel Bowen, for whom he grew the first soybeans [called Chinese vetches] ever cultivated in North America in 1765. Bowen got his soybeans while traveling in China. Yonge writes:
"They put about two quarts of the vetches into a coarse bag, or hair-cloth bag, that will hold about a peck [2 gallons], and after keeping them in it a little time in warm water, they lay the bag on [a] flat grating, or a wooden lattice, placed about half way down a tub; then every four hours they pour water on them, and in about 36 or 40 hours they will have sprouted about three inches in length; they are then taken out and dressed with oil and vinegar, or boiled as other vegetables... "Mr. Flint and Mr. Bowen having found them an excellent antiscorbutic prepared in this manner, was a principal reason for his introducing them into America, as it would be a most valuable remedy to prevent or cure the scurvy amongst the seamen on board his majesty's ships." Note that in America, as in China, soy sprouts are first recommended for use as a medicine; It is their vitamin C that prevents or cures scurvy.
1830 – Soy sprouts are first mentioned in Europe by Philip Franz von Siebold, an early traveler in Japan, in his book on the economic plants of Japan. In a large fold-out table, he states that soybeans (Sooja Japonica, Sieb.) can be artificially germinated to make "Mogasi" [sic, Moyashi]. He includes the word moyashi written in both katakana and Chinese characters.
1871 – Frederick Porter Smith, a medical missionary from England living in China, states in his book Contributions toward the Materia Medica and Natural History of China, that soy bean sprouts (Tau-ya) are "artificially raised in large quantities for food in the winter" when green vegetables are scarce in China. This is the second earliest English-language publication that mentions soy sprouts.
1888Keimlinge von Soja hispida, the German term for soy sprouts, is first used.
1905 – Soy sprouts are first produced commercially in the United States by Wing Chung Long (later named Wing Chong Lung), a Chinese food company in Los Angeles, California.
1910 Jan.Les germes de soja, the French term for soy sprouts, is first used.
1910 Jan. – Soy sprouts (Germes de soja) are first produced commercially in Europe by Li Yu-ying, a Chinese scholar and soybean expert, at his plant Usine de la Caseo-Sojaine at Valles, Colombes, northwest of Paris.
1914 Feb. – D. Bois in France publishes the earliest known illustration of a soy bean sprout.
1915 – The term “soy bean sprouts” is first used in English by the USDA Bureau of Plant Industry, Inventory No. 35.
1917-1918 – During World War I, interest in soy sprouts in the United States grows. Yamei Kin, a Chinese-American woman with an M.D. degree from an American college, is sent to China in June 1917 to study and report back on soyfoods – including soy sprouts, which she says can be used in a nutritious salad with fermented tofu.
      Writing in Country Gentleman (28 Sept. 1918), Sam Jordan of Missouri states: "Another dish which tastes as good as it looks or sounds is soy-bean sprouts. The smaller beans, of some yellow or green variety, are usually used." They are excellent because of "their use in the winter, acting as a green vegetable, and the fact that the vegetable can be had whenever wanted."
      William Morse, the USDA's soybean expert, writes in the Yearbook of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (1918), in a special section titled "Soy-bean sprouts," that in China soy beans are widely used for sprouting. "Bean sprouts can be used as a home winter vegetable, for the dried beans are sprouted easily in a short time under proper conditions of heat and moisture. It is quite possible that sprouted soy beans utilized in various vegetable dishes would appeal to the American taste." A full-page photo shows a large basket of sprouted soy beans. Taken by Frank N. Meyer, it is the first photo of soy sprouts ever published.
1918 – Chi Yien Shih, in a booklet “Beans and bean products” (p. 7) first describes how to grow soy sprouts on a commercial scale.
1921 May – The modern English term “soy sprouts” is first used by Embrey and Wang in the China Medical Journal.
1921 – Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, in his book The New Dietetics, has a special section titled "Soy bean sprouts" in which he is the first to use the word "vitamins" is describing the nutritional benefits of soy sprouts, and the first to note that "Sprouted soy beans is one of the constituents of the famous chop suey."
1923 – The term “soybean sprouts” (with “soybean” spelled as one word), is first used in English by Piper & Morse in their classic The Soybean (p. 278) – to introduce eight recipes for these sprouts.
1938 Oct. – Whiteman and Keyt, in USDA Leaflet No. 166, first describe how to grow soy sprouts at home.
1943-1945 – During World War II, awareness of soy sprouts again increases. Their champion is Prof. Clive McCay of Cornell University. His first brochure on the subject (April 1943, titled “Sprouted soy beans: Some informal notes”) begins: "Our daily paper would surprise us if it carried an ad: 'WANTED: a vegetable that will grow in any climate, rivals meat in nutritive value, matures in 3 to 5 days, may be planted any day in the year, requires neither soil nor sunshine, rivals in vitamin C, has no waste (in preparation), can be cooked with as little fuel and as quickly as park chop.' The Chinese discovered this vegetable centuries ago in sprouted soy beans."
      Prof. McCay and his wife, Jeanette, worked closely with the New York State Emergency Food Commission, to publicize soy sprouts and other soyfoods during the war years. Governor Thomas E. Dewey hosted a famous "soy bean lunch" at the governor's mansion in Albany, New York, to demonstrate the value of meat substitutes. Soy sprouts were in two of the dishes served to the 67 reporters.
1943 Nov. – “Half a dozen firms in Chinatown [New York City] raise thousands of pounds of soy and mungo sprouts daily for the city’s restaurants and markets. Mungo sprouts are preferred…” (Trelease & Trelease, J. of the New York Botanical Garden, p. 259).
1952 Feb. – Soy sprouts are first produced in the United States by a Japanese company, Yuta Moyashi Seizo-sho (Utah Beans Sprout Co.) in Salt Lake City, Utah.
1960s-2013 – Soy sprouts benefit from the rapid growth of interest in all kinds of sprouts in the USA and Europe, and from the growing number of Asian-American citizens.
1965 – William Brandemuhl, in an in-depth study of bean sprouts in Japan, discovers that Black mappe (Vigna mungo) are much more widely consumed than soybean sprouts. He takes some interesting photos in a shop that sprouts soybeans in Kyoto.
1976 – Jhason Koo, of Pyung Hwa Food Co. Inc. (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) now makes 4,000 pounds of soybean sprouts weekly and sells them in 50-pound sacks to Oriental restaurants and groceries.
1976 – F.G. Winarno et al., in The Present Status of Soybean in Indonesia, discover that soybean sprouts are most widely consumed in Lampung, on the southernmost tip of the island of Sumatra – 6.5 grams per person per day.
1978 April 30 –Masao Mori publishes a good update of Japan’s bean sprout industry.

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