Learning about Soy
Food literacy for young children is all about understanding where our food comes from and how it is grown and eaten around the world. Soybeans are native to East Asia and grow on leafy plants in long pods containing approximately 3 beans each. They like to grow in temperate climates with hot summer temperatures around 20-30C.
What is soy?
Soy is a legume or bean that is grown widely throughout the world and is an important source of protein due to its many uses. Soybeans can be soaked and ground into soymilk, which can then be coagulated and pressed into tofu. Whole soybeans can be eaten simply cooked or they can be fermented into a variety of products like miso, tempeh and soy sauce. Even animals eat soy—the protein is added into the feed for farm animals. It’s important to eat mostly protein that comes from plants for optimum health and as recommended by Canada’s Food Guide.
Here are some activity ideas to learn about soy:
• Easy Edamame. Try different forms of soy like edamame (whole soybeans steamed in their pods). Children can pop the beans out of the pods, building fine motor skills. Childcare facilities with 8+ children should check with their Licensing Officer about what is needed to serve food.
• Try Tempeh. A fermented soybean cake originally from Indonesia, tempeh has a hearty texture and can be sauteed into crispy strips or turned into tasty Tempeh Poppers.
• Explore all the types of Tofu. Made by coagulating soy milk and pressing the curds into a solid block, tofu comes in a wide variety of textures from soft and silken to firm and extra firm. Tofu is fairly bland in flavour but absorbs whatever it is cooked in. Soft and silken tofu is great for smoothies or to turn into creamy desserts. Firmer varieties are great for baking (try our Baked Tofu) and stir frying.
• Read a book about soy. My Family’s Soybean Farm by Katie Olthoff is a story about a boy and his dog describing his family’s modern soybean farm including the lifecycle of the soybean plant and how the crop gets to the market for all of its many uses.
• Read a book about making tofu. Tofu Takes Time by Helen H. Wu is a story of Lin and her grandma making tofu from scratch and the joy and wonder that comes from cooking together as a family.
For more ideas and resources
Learn more about soy and its benefits and uses: The Scoop on Soy