History of Soybeans and Soyfoods in Italy (1597-2015)

William Shurtleff, Akiko AoyagiISBN: 978-1-928914-78-5

Publication Date: 2015 July 27

Number of References in Bibliography: 1381

Earliest Reference: 1597

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Brief chronology/timeline of soy in Italy.
Only since the late 1950s has there been a serious interest in soybeans, soybean oil or meal, or traditional Asian soyfoods in Italy.
1597 – Francesco Carletti of Florence later says he saw miso in Japan (Carletti 1701, part II, p. 26; Carletti 1964, p. 110).
1701 – Bartolomeo Martini, in his Erbario Generale, Vol. I, may have been the earliest writer in Italy to mention the soybean. He is said to have stated that the soybean was cultivated in Italy starting in the mid-1700s – but this is far from certain (Saccardo 1909, p. 173; Mattei 1919, p. 15).
1760 – Carlo Allioni, in his Systematic Synopsis of Species in the Botanical Garden of Turin (Synopsis methodica stirp. Horti Taurinensis) states that the soybean is growing in Turin (Saccardo 1909, p. 173; Mattei 1919, p. 15).
1780 – Antonio Francesco Farsetti, in his Catalog of the Plants in Garden of the Nobleman S. Antonio Francesco Farsetti at Villa di Sala (Catalogo delle Piante che Esistono nel Giardino del Nobil Uomo S. Antonio Francesco Farsetti nella Villa di Sala) states that the soybean is growing in his botanical garden, probably near Venice (Saccardo 1909, p. 173; Mattei 1919, p. 16).
1786 – Giovanni Antonio Scopoli, in his Delights of the Insubrian Flora and Fauna,… (Deliciae Florae et Faunae Insubricae:…) states that the soybean is growing in Pavia, in northern Italy (Mattei 1919, p. 16).
1793 – Attilio Zuccagni, in his Synopsis of Plants in the Botanical Garden of the Museum at the Court of Florence (Synopsis Plantarum Horti Botanici Musei Regii Florentini) states that the soybean is growing in Florence (Saccardo 1909, p. 173; Mattei (1919, p. 16).
1795 – Horace, the Roman poet and satirist, mentions both Soy [sauce] and Katchup [ketchup, meaning soy sauce from the Dutch East Indies].
1801 – Giuseppe Antonio Bonato, in his Catalog of the Plants in the Botanico-Medical Garden of the Imperial and Royal Academy of Padua (Catalogus Plantarum Horti Botanico-Medici Caes. Reg. Academiae Patavinae) states that soybeans are growing in Padua (Saccardo 1909, p. 173).
      In 1807, Luigi Arduino says again, in a catalog, that the soybean is growing in Padua.
1811 – Filppo Rey, in his book The Refined Gardener (L’Ortolano Dirozzato) has a section on Beans (p. 178+) which contains an entry (p. 187) for: Fagiolo da Caffè. Dolichos soja Lin, which describes how to grow soybeans. Thus, the author gives the popular name of the soybean as the “Coffee Bean.”
1817 Sept. – While traveling in Venice, the English poet Lord Byron writes a poem titled “Beppo: A Venetian Story.” Byron says that since he was a boy (in England), he was accustomed to eating his salmon seasoned with soy [sauce]. But in Venice, the Lenten dishes, which are quite bland, could be made more interesting if they were seasoned with soy – which they are not. The poem was published in Feb. 1818.
1824 – Gaetano Savi, in his article “Observations on the Genera Phaseolus and Dolichos” (Osservazioni Sopra i Generi Phaseolus et Dolichos) in a journal published in Pisa, has a section titled "Soja" (p. 113-14) which begins by describing general characteristics of the genus, then lists three species. Savi was the first to give the scientific name Soja japonica to the Japanese soybean.
1827 – Vincentio [Vincenzo] Tineo, in his Catalog of Plants in the Royal Garden of Palermo in the year 1827 (Catalogus Plantarum Horti Regii Panormitani ad Annum 1827) lists alphabetically among the many genera (p. 240): "Soja (Dolichos, L.) Soja hispida Moench. Japonia oec" [economic plant] D. Symbol for annual plant.
1856 Nov. – Worcestershire sauce is now found in Sorrento, in southern Italy (Dublin University Magazine, p. 591).
1857 Dec. – Giuseppi Inzenga in Palermo, Sicily, starts the first real experiments with cultivating soybeans in Italy. He obtained his seeds from Paris and called them “oil beans of China” (fagiulo d’olio della China). He is a professor and editor of the periodical in which his article is published (Annali di Agricoltura Siciliana {Palermo}).
1877 – Prof. Friedrich Haberlandt of Vienna sends 100 each yellow-, brownish-red-, and black-seeded soybeans to Captain Erttel in Planta near Meran in South Tyrol [also known as Merano, in today's Alto Adige, Italy]. From the yellow soybeans the Captain obtains 1.886 kg of seeds, from the brownish-red soybeans 2.003 kg of seeds, and from the black-seeded soybeans 2.240 kg of seeds. Thus, the black soybeans give the biggest yield and the yellow soybeans the smallest.
      At about the same time, in approximately the same place, Dr. Mach, director of the agricultural education institution, also receives good yields from yellow and brownish-red varieties he had received from Prof. Haberlandt (Wiener Landwirthschaftliche Zeitung. 1878. Jan 12, p. 13).
1880 – A long (6-page) article titled La Soja hispida (the soybean), by B. Moreschi appears in the Giornale di Agricoltura, Industria e Commercio del Regno d'Italia (33:370-75. 17th year). It is largely an Italian-language summary of the work with soybeans conducted by: (1) Friedrich Haberlandt of Vienna, and (2) Early farmers and agricultural societies in France. However on page 372 we read: Laemmle and Viglietto, who cultivated the same variety on the farm of the R. agricultural station of Udine, say that two of the best plants gave 486 pods and weighing 183 grams in grain.
1889 – Damman & Co. located near Naples, Italy, is the earliest known Italian seed dealer to offer soybeans in its seed catalog.
1902 Feb. – Dr. Enrico Rimini is the first in Italy to report that soy bread is therapeutic in diabetic diets.
1907 – Ruata and Testoni publish “Soy in the Italian Diet” (La Soia nell'alimentazione Italiana), the earliest Italian-language document seen that mentions tofu, soy sauce, miso or soy flour. It also contains a good history of soybeans in Italy.
1909 – Pier Andrea Saccardo gives a brief list of the earliest references to the soybean in Italy.
1909 – Carson (of the USA), in a Special Consular Report titled “Soya Bean and Products,” states (p. 22) that in Italy, soya beans are imported and cultivated (“as a feed stuff for live stock”) in only very small quantities.
1916 – Piper reports that imports of soy bean oil to Italy increased from 2,252 tons in 1912, to 4,642 tons in 1913, to 5,830 tons in 1914 (USDA Bulletin No. 439, table on p. 7).
1918 – Soymilk is first mentioned in Italian by Paolo Bottari; he calls it latte di soja.
1919 – G.E. Mattei, in his 34-page article “The Soybean and Its Products” (Le Soja ed i Suoi Prodotti) gives what is probably the best history seen to date of the soybean in Italy.
1922 Sept. – At the pediatric congress held in Milan in Sept. 1922, the question of lactation (feeding children) with vegetable milk is discussed in a favorable way, proposed by Prof. Muggia and sustained by the illustrious Prof. Berghius, Director of the Pediatric Clinic of the University of Padua, and by Prof. Francioni of Bologna. We can also add that experiments on lactation are proceeding in Italy at the pediatric clinics of Turin, Bologna, Padua, Genoa, and Florence, and also at the Infant's Dispensary in Turin (Bottari 1923, p. 206).
1923 – Fulvio Bottari publishes the first major book in Italian about the soybean, The Soybean in History, in Agriculture, and in Food and Industrial Applications (La Soja Nella Storia, nell'Agricoltura e Nelle Applicazioni Alimentari ed Industriali). It contains an excellent, 8-page history of the soybean in Italy.
1928 – A. Vivenza, in his article “The Cultivation of the Soybean in Italy and in Its Colonies” (La Coltivazione della Soja in Italia e nelle sue Colonie) first mentions soybeans in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, and Libya.
1940 June – Soya Ravioli, Soya Spaghetti, and Soya Macaroni are introduced by Radcliffe Soya Products of San Francisco – showing for the first time outside of Italy that soyfoods are excellent ingredients in Italian-style recipes.
1928 – V. Ducceschi, publishes an important 37-page article “The Soybean in Human Nutrition” (La Soja nell'alimentazione Umana).
1948 – Ersel Walley, President, American Soybean Assoc. (ASA, in Hudson, Iowa) spends most of this summer in Europe (including Italy) studying the potential for soybeans in the European recovery program. This visit marks the beginning of decades of ASA involvement in Italy.
1956 – In southern Europe, extremely cold weather during the past two years has sharply cut olive production and killed some olive trees. Spain and Italy, both olive growing countries, are now importing soybean and cottonseed oil in large quantities. In both countries there is interest in importing whole soybeans to be crushed locally. Italy already has modern facilities adapted to crushing soybeans (Strayer. Soybean Digest. Aug. p. 18, 33).
1956 Sept. – “A huge export market development program in European countries to be implemented with over one-half million dollars in P.L. 480 and soybean industry funds will be the first undertaking of the new Soybean Council of America.
      “The Council is an industry-wide organization formed this past summer for the purpose of research, education and promotion of the nation's soybean crop.
      “An agreement between the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service and the Council to implement the program was approved by the Council's board of directors and signed by the officers” (Soybean Digest, Sept. p. 26-27).
1957 March – Soybean market development programs are now under way in Spain and Italy, by the Soybean Council of America (SCA). The first event, in April 1957, was a big exhibit of soybeans and soy products at an International Trade Fair in Verona, Italy (Soybean Digest, March. p. 20-21; April. p. 20).
1958 Sept. – Dominic Marcelo, Director General for Italy, Soybean Council of America, presents his first report on the activities of the Soybean Council in Italy at ASA’s annual meeting in the United States. In Feb. 1958 the council opened its office in Rome (Soybean Digest, Sept. p. 51-52).
1959 Sept. – “The use of margarine is gradually being accepted by the Italian housewife.” “…soybean oil was used to manufacture margarine for the first time last month.” "The trend seems to be toward more and more processing of soybeans with facilities available in Italy. Whereas in 1957 there was practically no soybean processing, there are now at least six important Italian plants either working soybeans or making plans to do so” (Marcello, D. Soybean Digest, p. 22-23).
1960 June – “In the years prior too the fall of 1957… U.S. soybean shipments averaged only about 25,000 bushels annually. In the 1958-59 marketing year exports rose to 1.3 million bushels; and they are expected to double during the current marketing year” (Foreign Agriculture, p. 6-7).
1962 June – In the 1959-60 import year, about 270,000 tons of soybeans and equivalent in soybean products were imported. More than 50% of last year's imports consisted of whole beans which were crushed in newly built Italian plants, 35% consisted of soybean meal and 13% was oil (Soybean Digest, p. 27).
1962 – Dieba Co. launches Soiamin 15 and Soiamin 20, two types of macaroni fortified with soy flour (5% and 10% respectively).
1964 – By this time, imports of whole soybeans, soybean oil, and soybean oil to Italy from the United States have increased dramatically as a result of market development programs done mostly in cooperation with Italian trade groups.
1973 – After the Nixon administration imposed an embargo on all exports of soybeans from the United States in June 1973, Italy (like so many other countries that were major buyers of U.S. soybeans) realized its vulnerability; in 1981 Italy began to experiment seriously with soybean production. That production skyrocketed from only 9,000 metric tons in 1981/82, to 1,751,000 metric tons in 1990/91. It then began a long, slow decline to 346,000 metric tons in 2008/09, but has been rising again in recent years.
      Most of these soybeans are grown in the Po valley of northern Italy. One of the biggest crushers is The Ferruzzi Group/Ferruzzi-Montedison, renamed Cereol on 1 Jan. 1990. Ferruzzi is run by the brash, risk-taking and controversial Raul Gardini.
1977 Feb. – Cesare R. Sirtori and co-workers at the University of Milan, begin to publish pioneering nutritional research which shows that soy protein significantly lowers serum cholesterol in humans. As of 2006 their research is ongoing.
1978 – Tofu is first made commercially in Italy by a macrobiotic center (Centro Macrobiotico) in Rimini, Italy. Gilberto Bianchini is one of the key people in this work.
      At about the same time in Milan, Roland A. di Centa, starts to make commercial tofu out of his apartment. In 1979 he introduced Italy’s first tofu kit. He is very interested in macrobiotics and was a close friend of Michio Kushi.
1979 March – Multilac, a soy isolate-based infant formula powder, is launched by Farmitalia Carlo Erbe S.p.A. of Milan.
1982 Feb. – Tofu Lasagna and Tofu Ravioli are launched in the USA by Legume, Inc., as the flagship products in a line of frozen tofu convenience foods – showing once again that soyfoods work superbly as ingredients in Italian recipes. Many more such examples (Tofu Cacciatore, Tofu Cutlets Marinara, Tofu Tetrazzini, Pizza with Soya Kaas, Manicotti Florentine, Tofutti Tortellini {filled with non-dairy cream cheese}) will follow in the United States over the next few decades.
1983 – The American Soybean Assoc. and Italy's Crivellaro Co. begin promoting soybean oil in Italy. The company uses ASA's Soyasign on its soy oil label to designate high quality. Sold in a Tetra Brik Aseptic Carton, the product’s name is Crivellaro Oilio di Semi di Soia (Tutto Vegetale).
1985 April – An excellent article in Eurosoya by Amaducci , Rosso and Venturi explains the fundamental reasons for the introduction of soybean cultivation to Italy and its development in the Po Valley in northern Italy.
1985 – La Fonte della Vita S.r.L. (of Fossano) launches Nigari Tofu, Tofu Spreads, and Soymilk – the first of many soy products. They are soon the biggest tofu maker in Italy. They are still introducing new soyfood products in 1997.
1985Il Giornale della Soia (The Soybean Journal) begins publication in Udine, Italy. It is entirely in Italian. Some of its articles are reprints of early, classic, hard-to-find Italian articles.
1987 – La Finestra sul Cielo S.r.l., an important macrobiotic center, in Volpiano near Torino (Turin), is the first company to ever make and sell tempeh commercially in Italy.
1989 – Medical Soy S.p.A., of Milan, introduces Amisoya Soya Tondella (Firm Non-Dairy Cheeses), the first of its many soy products.
1991 – Valsoia Soyamilk in four flavors is made as the result of a joint venture between Buton S.p.A. and Crivellaro srl, the market leaders of branded soya oil in Italy.
1991 Nov. – La Buona Terra, a macrobiotic center in Genova (Genoa), Italy, launches Tofu, Tempeh, and Natto.
1992 – Biolab, of Gorizia, introduces Tofu – Alimento Derivato dalla Soja (Tofu – A Food Made from Soybeans), the first of its many soy products. The same year it launches Marinated Tofu, Smoked Tofu, Soymilk. By 1998 it is the 3rd largest tofu maker in Italy. The founder and owner is Massimo Santinelli, age 34 in 1998.
1993 Aug. – Valsoia, which was established in 1990 as a joint venture between Buton and Crivellaro, is now an independent company that manufactures soymilk, soymilk products, and other soy products. It was sold to many shareholders in Aug. 1993 by Buton and Crivellaro; the latter two companies now own none of the stock. The CEO is Dr. Lorenzo Sassoli de Bianchi. Valsoia now has a 73% share of the Italian soymilk market, which is 4 million liters/year. They now produce about 7,000 tonnes/year of all products.
1997 – Two new large surveys conducted in Europe show clearly that European consumers (including Italians) don’t want genetically engineered foods.
1998 – The two largest tofu manufacturers in Italy are Soyalab and La Fonte de la Vita, but they are both owned by The Key Group, which bought them 4-5 years ago. The Key Group is the largest in Italy in biological (organic) foods. Biolab, which started in June 1992, is the third largest tofu maker.
2009 March 11 – Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post says that Lorenzo Sassoli de Bianchi [of Valsoia] is “the Italian king of soy.”


Click here to download the full text to open and read book History of Soybeans and Soyfoods in Italy (1597-2015)