In the Baixing village of the Majiang county, in the south-western part of Yunnan, local farmers grow an age-old variety of soya beans, with a smaller seed than commonly grown varieties. It has a dark green colour and is used to prepare a very delicate and refreshing tofu, highly appreciated by the local Rao population.
The Rao are thought to belong to the Yao ethnic group, although in reality they are the descendants of the Rao that settled many centuries ago in the Yunnan, and who were forced to leave their province when the Yao occupied their land.
The cultivation technique requires the seeds to be planted in March, and harvesting begins in August and September.
The plants are then uprooted, and once the pods have been dried in the air, the seeds are collected. A part of these are kept by farmers after each harvest.
In this area, the available land is scarce and the parcels allocated to each family are only small (less than an acre). To ensure the best yield from their land, local producers alternatively plant beans, corn, peanuts, depending on the climate, either growing different varieties together or in succession.
Rotation is useful to integrate the different nutrients offered by the land, without losing its fertility.
The tofu made using this local variety is the fruit of an ancient recipe prepared and offered to visitors, while the pulp of pressed soya seeds is used to produce a soya milk beverage.
The Baixing soya bean is not very well-known due to the lack of young people in the farming industry. The drought increasingly affecting this territory is also placing this product at risk of extinction.