© Denzil Green
Lima Beans are large, flat beans that grow on a perennial plant. Most lima beans are white, turning to a pale green when cooked. Other varieties vary in colour; one variety known as the “Christmas” variety is speckled. Heritage varieties tend to stay white when cooked.
Lima beans are available generally in a large size (sometimes called “potato”) and a small size called “Baby Lima Beans”, which are about half the size.
Depending on where you are, lima beans can be obtained fresh, frozen or dried. When buying fresh, choose pods that appear to have plump beans inside.
Lima beans have a starchy, grainy texture which is quite different from many other beans. Some people dislike the beans for this texture; others like it, calling it “meaty.”
Fordhook Lima Beans
These are very large, pale green lima beans, in the “potato” class because of their size. Some people who won’t touch regular lima beans will eat these, because they are more flavourful. This is the variety that Lima Bean lovers crave.
Baby Lima Beans (aka Sieva)
These aren’t immature lima beans, but rather a variety of pale green Lima Bean that only grows to about half the size of “potato” size Lima Beans.
Dried Limas Beans are sometimes called “Butter Beans.”
To prepare fresh lima beans, wash, pod them, and discard the pods. To pod, break the stem off, use the string to “unzip the bean”, then pinch the pod at the seam to pop the beans out. Discard the pods.
Simmer dried lima beans in water on the stove for about 2 hours, or pre-soak overnight and cook for one hour.
As for all beans, you can cook to al dente for salads, or to very soft for soups and baked bean dishes.
To cook dried lima beans in a pressure cooker, cook in enough water to cover all the beans, along with a teaspoon of oil.
Pressure cooker times for dried lima beans:
Unsoaked al dente – 20 minutes;
Unsoaked soft – 25 minutes;
Soaked al dente – 10 minutes;
Soaked soft – 15 minutes.
Lima beans purée and mash well.
Blanching times for freezing fresh lima beans:
- Small lima beans: 2 minutes
- Medium lima beans: 3 minutes
- Large lima beans: 4 minutes
Lima beans contain cyanogen, related to cyanide. But in Western Countries commercial distribution is restricted to those with the lowest amounts, so that they are no danger to us. The small, minute trace amount of toxin that is present is gotten rid of by cooking them in boiling water, as hydrogen cyanide is a gas and will escape from them during cooking.
Still, some recommend to cook uncovered; others recommend to discard the cooking water. Others say this is a case of vastly unnecessary caution, given the quantity of pressure cooker lima bean and hambone soup consumed every year in the American south, incident-free.
1 pound fresh lima beans in pods = 450g = 1 to 1 1/2 cups fresh, shelled beans
1/2 pound dried lima beans = 225g = 1 cup dried = 2 1/2 cups boiled
1 cup boiled, drained = 170g = 6 oz
1 15oz / 420g tin, drained = 1 1/2 cups / 9 oz / 250g cooked, drained lima beans
Store unwashed fresh lima bean pods in unsealed plastic bag, or shelled beans in closed bag, in fridge for up to 3 to 5 days. Dried lima beans will keep in a sealed bag or jar for up to a year.
Lima beans originated in Central America, possibly in what is now Guatemala. Archaeologists have discovered 7,000 year old lima beans in tombs there. By the end of the 1500s, sailors were carrying the Lima bean around the world.
Named for the city of Lima, Peru.