We have been taking a look at the soybean fields around southwestern Indiana, and have seen some great examples of soybean plants. But it’s not so easy to sneak a peek at the soybeans as they are growing and maturing as it is for corn. So here are a few examples of what soybeans look like as they are maturing.
These soybeans are from different fields at different stages of maturity, so the sizes may not translate exactly through the stages of growth and maturing, but it does give you the basic idea of how soybeans change over time.
The green soybean pods in the top left are “fresh” soybeans. These are still green and have plenty of moisture. The yellow pods in the top right have started to dry out. They aren’t ready for harvest yet, but have matured quite a bit more than their green friends. The brown pods on the bottom are mature soybeans. These are ready to be harvested.
Let’s take a closer look at the green soybeans. When you split the pod open, you can see that each soybean just fits in its spot in the pod.
Here are the soybeans taken out of their pod. They are pretty small! Some varieties of soybeans will stay about this size, others will get bigger before they are fully mature. A lot of the size depends on the weather – the more rain there is, the more likely the soybeans are to grow nice and big.
As the soybeans start to dry, they lose their green color and start to turn yellow. The beans also start to shrink, and don’t fit quite so snugly in their pods.
Can you see the little brown line on the edge of the soybeans? This is normal, all soybeans have it! It isn’t very noticeable on the green soybeans, but as they mature and dry the brown spot gets much more visible.
You can see the big difference in color from the fresh, green soybeans to these as they start to mature and dry out.
Finally, here are the ready-to-harvest soybeans. They have shrunk down to little round beans, they rattle in their pods, and are very hard.
They’ll roll around like little marbles if you let them get away!
The soybeans that are grown in Indiana are mainly used for soybean oil and soybean meal. These are not the soybeans that you might have eaten in a Japanese restaurant or found in your grocery store as “edamame.” Edamame soybeans are a different variety of soybean. These tend to grow larger beans, and are harvested when they are “ripe,” or at their green stage (like you would pick green beans or peas out of your garden, or find fresh in the produce section of your grocery store).
These are some edamame soybeans that I found in the frozen section of my grocery store. (They are still frozen, which is why they look like they have little ice crystals on them. They do!)
Have you seen soybeans out of the pod before? Do they look like what you expected?