Lima beans: Large lima beans, Madagascar, Burma, Rangoon, habas grandes, Christmas lima beans, fagioli della Nonna, Grandma’s beans
Nearly an inch long, lima beans can be green or a creamy-white.
They have a buttery flavour and creamy texture with a tendency to become mushy if overcooked.
Both the large and the small limas are New World beans. Native to the altiplano in Peru, the large limas can trace their heritage back to about 1500 CE, when they were named after the capital of that country.
No lima bean should be eaten raw.
Certain varieties, especially those with a red or black testa, have been associated with high levels of cyanogenic glucosides (linamarine); but there is no reliable correlation between seed colour and cyanide content.
Environmental factors may also influence the degree of toxicity. These substances have been reduced to safe levels by selective breeding. However, it usually means that the beans must be soaked twice, changing water each time, and then cooked for about two hours.
Many farmers and home gardeners are partial to the Fordhook variety,
which is also known as the potato lima. It has an excellent yield and flavour, although the seeds are slower to form than those of the smaller varieties.
Other limas include the following:
Baby white lima
is small, flat, off-white and probably of Guatemalan or Mexican origin. It is more delicate than the large limas, and is in a different botanical category. It is more tender, fruity, and sweet and less mealy than its larger cousins.
is a larger heirloom variety that is plumper, with a maroon batik-like pattern on a creamy background. It is smooth, creamy, savoury, and slightly starchy with a distinctive taste. It grows as a climbing vine or a bush variety. The Christmas is prized for its chestnut-like flavour and its appearance.
Hopi yellow lima
is an heirloom variety that has been preserved as a dry bean by the Hopi Indians, who grind it into flour. It is very close in appearance to an ancient orange bean with dark markings found in pre-Columbian graves in Peru.
Red lima is also known as the Worcester Indian red pole lima, and was originally ground for flour by Native Americans or served with red corn. In the southern US, slaves first cooked this bean with brown goober peas (a close relative of the peanut) and red sweetpotatoes to make fufu, an African mashed dumpling traditionally made with mashed plantain and other roots.
Lima beans: small lima bean, butter bean, baby lima, sieva bean, civet bean, Dixie speckled butter bean, calico bean, Florida speckled pole bean (Phaseolus lunatus var. lunatus)
Contrary to popular belief, the small lima bean is not a smaller version of the large lima bean. There is a separate botanical classification for each.
This bean is about one-half inch in length, flatter, and thinner than the large ones. The texture, which is more buttery, and its thinner skin allow it to cook faster.
It is also more resistant to heat and humidity growing as a bush bean or a pole-type.
The butter bean has two distinct species: the large variety originated in Peru,
while the smaller one came from Mexico and known as the “sieva bean”.
The sieva bean
is a smaller, flatter bean than the Peruvian varieties, but both were taken to Europe by Spanish explorers.
The slave trade introduced them to Africa, where they are still grown as a popular legume crop since they are basically tropical and subtropical beans and do not grow well in cooler climates.
is a bit larger and plumper, with a calico pattern of black and cream. It is more resistant to heat and humidity and grows well during the “dog days” of summer in the Deep South of the US.