Saturday December 26, 2015:  Updated December 28, 2015

Growing Your Own Milk

Is there anything that a soy bean can't do? 

Warning: You may find the topics discussed in this article very offensive. 

Wow!  I mean Wow! I had no idea that sharing my little experiment of growing soy beans in my own backyard would be so controversial. 
Apparently there are groups that preach the "evils" of soy beans with such religious fervor, you would think that I was growing marijuana-laced opium or something. 

I have no qualms against dairy products and I don't buy into the hilarious anti-soy conspiracy that consuming soy products will somehow make you gay. 
There are however people who truly have allergic or other sensitivities to soy products. It is unfortunate that for whatever reason their bodies can't consume it. 
Regardless, I'm just a guy trying an experiment growing some non-GMO soybeans in his own backyard Mittlieder garden! So I'm going to just keep growing food that I want to grow and eat what I want to eat. 

Growing Soy Beans at Home
It was super fun to see these little round, yellowish-white soy beans sprout and grow into full sized plants that produced little bean pods of their own. 

Eating home-grown edamame is delicious and making home-made tofu is an almost magical lesson in chemistry and the culinary arts. 

Soy milk is not my all-time favorite but in an emergency, at least it’s an option to pouring water on your cereal right? And you can grow it yourself, literally in your own backyard. Growing soy beans is far less work than having a dairy cow and the home-owners association won't freak out if you grow them either. 

Soybeans are easy to grow in your own backyard. Just make sure you use non-GMO seeds. I only planted a few soy beans but a theoretical 30' Mittleider row dedicated to soybeans, harvested and made exclusively into soy-milk could yield about 8 gallons of soy milk (~1 quart of soy milk per foot of row). 
The neat thing about home-made soy milk is the beans keep for a long time and you can make them into soy milk as you need it. It's like keeping powered milk on hand except you can also grow more milk from them. 

Home grown soy beans:
Plant soy beans indoors and when the little plants have sprouted, transplant them outside into a double Mittleider 18" wide, staggered row, with plants spaced 6" apart.
After 2 months, the plants will start to put off little been pods. When the seed pods are fuzzy, green and bulging, they have reached the Edamame stage. You can harvest and freeze them in 1 gallon bags for eating later or steam them up and eat them now. I prefer to pick half now, freezing them in 1 gallon bags and allow the remaining pods still on the bean stock to continue to mature.


At this stage green soy bean pods are known as edamame. 

Steam and salt the bean pods. squeeze them open and let the soy beans pop into your mouth. We don't usually have edamame very often on our dinner table, but when we do, they are a huge hit. You have to be quick though or else the kids will take them all before you get any. You would think they were eating hot buttered popped corn.

A few weeks after the edamame stage, the bean pods dry out and the soy beans begin to rattle inside. 


When the pods rattle, it’s time to pick them. 


A bowl full of dry soy bean pods before shelling.

Dumping the pods in a large tote and stomping on them releases most of the beans from their pods. Breaking them up with your hands frees the rest. Make sure to wear gloves because the dried pods are scratchy.
From here you can then winnow out the beans by pouring the whole mess across a fan or light breeze. The chaff will blow away and the soy beans will fall down into a container below. Easy peasy, er beany rather.


A small bowl of home grown beans. Not all were completely dry. Oh well. 

Let the beans dry out completely for long-term storage.

Home Grown Homemade soy-milk

To make soy milk we first need to soak the beans overnight. Use 4 cups of water for every cup of dry soybeans. The beans will swell up and consume almost all the water. Rinse well and drain off the excess water. 

Put the soaked, swelled beans into a blender with 4 cups of new water. Blend until the mix becomes a white soup. Pour the bean soup through a nut-bag or cheese cloth. Collect the liquid. This is raw soy milk. The remaining mash left behind is called okara. I usually toss it in the compost but you can add it recipes if you want to increase the protein content.

Raw soy milk must be cooked before drinking. Heat on the stove, bringing it up to a slow boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Scoop off the foam that forms on top and discard. 

At this point you have home-grown, home-made soy milk and you can go two ways with it.

Milk: While still hot, add some sweetener and vanilla to taste and allow it to cool. It keeps for about a week in the refrigerator. Good job! You just made some delicious, natural soy milk. Now you are officially a weirdo like me. A weirdo that makes cool stuff. 

Tofu: While still hot, add 1 tsp for Epsom salt for every quart of soy milk. Stir in the Epsom salt until the milk starts to curdle. It's almost magical and also kind of freaky seeing hot milk curdle right before your eyes. 

Pour the curds into a nut-bag. Drain off liquid and press the curds between two dinner plates to remove as much water as possible. The more water you can remove at this stage, the firmer the tofu will be. 
If cow's milk curdles into dairy cheese, then, tofu is literally soy-cheese. How cool is that?
Congratulations! You just made your own tofu. You ROCK!
Store the tofu in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to a year.


Soy-beans, homemade soy milk and homemade tofu. Wow, I grew this milk and tofu, in my own backyard Mittleider garden.

Tofu takes on the flavor of whatever you are marinating it in. It can be part of the most heavenly, scrumptious dish you have ever tasted or you can make it taste like Sheetrock spackle. It’s your choice. Personally, I prefer awesomely mind-blowing, delicious food.

Some of the best skewers I have ever tasted were made from home-grown marinated tofu, mushrooms and home-grown peppers. 

Eating these things when they came from your own backyard garden makes them all the more healthy and “rewarding”.

Yay for soy-beans!


Next Article: Labor Saving Tools