Soybeans are cherry-sized seeds of legumes (Leguminosae), one pod containing 1 - 3 differently shaped (round, oval, spherical, kidney-shaped) seeds rich in fat, protein, vitamins and lecithin. They came originally from China and only became more widespread in Europe and America from the end of the 18th century.
Soybeans are most often yellow in color, but many varieties also have black beans. Varieties are also known which have brown, olive-green and spotted beans. The hilum may be colorless, brown or black, while the cotyledons are yellow or green.
These days, soybeans constitute one of the world's most economically significant plants and are cultivated and harvested on a grand scale. They belong to the category of oil-bearing seeds/fruits which, like the various types of cereal, are vegetable products with a low water content. However, they differ from cereals in their high oil content, which may vary within broad limits.
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