Soybeans, which are called soya in the United Kingdom or soja beans elsewhere, are a highly nutritious legume that is one of the world's oldest crops. The beans grow on a bushy annual herb that has hairy trifoliate leaves. The flowers of the soybean plant are purple to pink in color. The soybean plant, native to Asia, is related to alfalfa, clover, and peas. Soybeans were probably first grown in eastern China over 5,000 years ago. The Chinese Emperor Sheng-Nung named five sacred plants in 2853 b.c.e.: rice, wheat, barley, millet, and the soybean. From that time soybean cultivation spread to Burma, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.

When Europeans voyaged to the Far East during the Age of Discovery, they ...

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