How to Harvest Soybeans

Soybeans ripening up in a garden.

Packed with calcium, fiber and protein, soybeans are a healthy choice. Easy to grow at home, soybeans have recently gained popularity amongst home gardeners looking for another high-yielding warm weather crop to add to their gardening plans.

TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Susan Paterson adds, "Companions for soybeans include potatoes, cucumbers, corn, strawberries, celery, summer savory."

Recognizing Mature Soybeans

You should always harvest soybeans at their peak ripeness, which is about 85 days from your initial planting. You can test if they are ready by both looking at them and by tasting them. They should be 3 to 4 inches in length when fully matured. The inner beans in the pods should feel firm, yet not hard. The bean’s pod should be fuzzy, rough, green and plump. The leaves on the plant will have changed from a dark green to a yellowish green, but not to the point that they are looking fully yellow.

Testing Soybeans for Ripeness

Once the soybeans meet the visual criteria for ripeness, test a few pods for ripeness by picking a few beans. Place them in a pot of boiling water and set a timer for 5 minutes. Once they are done, place them under cold running water to cool and stop them from continuing to cook. Pop the beans out of the pods and taste them. If the texture is good, you should harvest your soybeans.

TIP: Susan cautions you, "Do not eat soybeans raw."

Harvesting Soybeans

Now that you have determined that your soybeans are ripe, harvest them at once. Harvest plants as a row all at one time. Be sure not to let the beans sit ripened for too long or the plant will cease to produce new beans.

If the leaves of your soybean plants are turning yellow, harvest the entire plant immediately. The soybeans will be just past their prime ripeness, but still should be able to be used as normal. However, if the beans in the pod are also already turning yellow, use them in a dish that will be cooked a long time like chili.

TIP: Susan suggests, "If you have a great number of soybeans and it is an extremely hot day you can pull the entire plant and pick the pods off in a shady spot."

Eating and Storing Soybeans

Wash pods before cooking to remove any soil. Soybeans can be refrigerated for 7 to 10 days or blanched in boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes then frozen for longer storage.

If you want your soybeans shelled, doing it by hand is the easiest and cheapest option. Once you have harvested your soybeans, sit back and spend some time stripping the beans from their pod. To make stripping easier you can drop the pods into boiling water for 1 minute. If you will be storing them long term, you should blanch them at this stage in the same way that you would for the whole bean, boiling for 2 to 3 minutes.

By harvesting your soybeans according to this step-by-step guide, you will ensure a full and delicious crop.