Lima beans don’t always get the credit they deserve in the flavor department. Not only are they delicious and versatile, they are also nutritious as well. Lima beans can be found canned, fresh, frozen and also dried. How they are prepared will depend largely on how they are packaged.
Lima beans (Phaseolus limensis) can be found as both bush beans or pole beans, and go by a variety of names like butter bean, Burma bean, sieva bean, and the civet bean. Lima beans are a legume, originating in the South America region (Lima is the capital city of Peru). While Lima beans are also called a butter bean, butter beans are sometimes referred to a white or yellow Lima variety.
These beans are a warm-season crop, and are sensitive to both very hot temperatures and frost. Harvest times for these beans are when they are full-size, but the smaller ones are better as they are more tender. The bigger they are the tougher they become. The bush bean-type of Lima mature earlier then the pole bean-type, but the pole bean-type of Lima bean will produce more. Pole beans will require a trellis as they grow, for support. All Lima bean varieties like moist, warm, and well-amended soil to germinate.
Lima beans are harvested both as fresh or dried beans, but only the seed is used for food, not the entire pod. The pods all have to be shucked prior to use, and need to be cooked as they are poisonous if eaten raw. Raw Lima beans contain a compound called linamarin (cyanogenic glucoside – a cyanide compound) that when cooked, makes the beans completely safe to eat. Therefore, Lima beans are not a bean choice for people who enjoy raw foods.
All varieties of Lima bean have the characteristic kidney shape, and are either very flat or slightly oval. Most common colors for Lima beans are light green, but white, yellow, reddish-colors, or spotted colors can be found as well.
Lima beans are very high in fiber, and benefit whatever dish they are added to by supplying both insoluble and soluble fiber. A one-cup portion of fresh, plain cooked baby Lima beans provides 12 grams of protein and 9 grams of dietary fiber. They are also high in Vitamin C and Iron, and are a good source of Vitamin A, Magnesium and Potassium. Lima beans are very high in Manganese.
These beans are made famous by succotash, a dish made up of Lima beans and corn. Lima beans also pair well with pork products, such as ham hocks, bacon, or salt pork, for a smoky flavor. Lima beans make a simple side dish all their own when cooked as a fresh bean (fresh picked or frozen) and cooked with other vegetables, like carrots, onions, celery or corn, or they can create a hearty main dish when simmered as a dry bean for a soup or stew.
Resources and References Used:
Koske, Thomas J., Alan L. Morgan, and Donald M. Ferrin. “Beans.” Vegetable Gardening Tips. Pub. 2309. Lousiana State University Agricultural Center Research & Extension Service.
Ambler, Wayne, et al. Treasury of Gardening. Lincolnwood: Publications International, 1994.
Nutrition information provided by the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.
Fruit and Vegetable of the Month: Fresh Beans. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Site accessed 31 January, 2011. Fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov.