- Butter beans
- Madagascar bean
Lima beans originated in Peru and have been grown there since 6000 B.C. The name lima bean comes from the capital city of Peru, Lima. Lima beans are often nicknamed chad beans or butter beans. In the southern part of the United States, lima beans are almost always called butter beans, even in markets and restaurants.
There are two distinct varieties of lima-the Ford hook and the Baby Lima (and Ford hooks are not adult baby limas). Both are pale green, plump-bodied and have a slight kidney-shape curve. The Ford hook is larger and plumper than the baby lima. It also has a fuller flavor than its smaller relative. They're usually sold in their pods, which should be plump, firm and dark green. The pods can be refrigerated in a plastic bag for up to a week. They should be shelled just before using. Frozen lima beans are available year-round and are labeled according to variety (Ford hook or baby). Canned and dried limas are usually labeled jumbo, large or small, a designation that relates to size and not variety. In the South, dried limas are frequently referred to as butter beans. When mottled with purple they're called calico or speckled butter beans. A traditional way to serve limas is with corn in Succotash. They're also used alone as a side dish, in soups and sometimes in salads. Lima beans contain a good amount of protein, phosphorus, potassium and iron.
Lima beans come in three main sizes: large, small, and dwarf.
Large lima beans are green or speckled. The speckled kind have a creamy texture and a strong earthy flavor, unlike the pale green ones.
Small lima beans are also called sieva beans and have several other nicknames, such as Carolina bean, civet, seewee, and sivvy. Most small limas are pale green. Small limas are less starchy than the larger varieties.
Dwarf beans, also known as butter peas, are white and speckled and the least starchy of the limas.
Fresh lima beans are difficult to find in the United States, but can occasionally be found at farmers markets. It is easier to find lima beans in the southern United States than anywhere else in the country. Most lima beans are dried, canned, or frozen.
Fresh lima beans need to be shelled before they are eaten. Shelling can be a little tricky, especially with larger beans. Beans are easier to handle if they are tender and have full pods. One method used for larger beans is to simply cut open the pod with scissors and remove the beans by hand. To remove the beans from smaller limas, pull off the string along the seam, and press the two sides open to pop the beans out. Rinse canned limas before using them to reduce their gas-promoting properties.
Lima beans should never be eaten raw (see warning below). The most common methods of preparation are boiling and microwaving. Only a small amount of water needs to be used for either method.
Do not eat raw lima beans. They contain linamarin (also called cyanogen), which releases a cyanide compound when the seed coat is opened. Don’t worry; cooking deactivates this compound. The United States sets regulations to restrict commercially grown lima beans to those varieties with very low levels of this linamarin, but lima beans grown elsewhere, may have 20 to 30 times the concentration allowed in the United States.
- Vegetable of the Month: Fresh Beans by the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, public domain government resource—original source
- Wikipedia Article About Lima Bean on Wikipedia