Lima beans are also called butter beans or chad beans. Is it any surprise that the lima bean is named for the capital of Peru where it has been cultivated for thousands of years? It is actually a native of the Andes in South America. The pod of the lima bean is usually flat, and contained within each pod are the Lima bean seeds. There are usually two to four flat, kidney-shaped seeds within each pod. Lima beans you’re familiar with are usually green to pale green and are larger than butter beans which are usually white in color, sometimes speckled but a smaller size. Other color varieties include white, red, purple, brown and even black.
As far as flavor goes, the large lima beans have a creamy or as some say a mushy texture with an earthy flavor, while the butter beans have a creamier, milder and more delicate taste, and are also the least starchy of the Lima beans. No doubt if you like lima beans, you’ll like butter beans.
Lima beans are also an excellent source of folate, fiber, and iron as well as other needed minerals that we’ve seen with other beans. They are available fresh in the shell, dried, frozen, and canned. Lima beans are an important crop in areas of Africa and Asia, and were introduced into the United States in the 19th century.
Lima beans are good in soups, stews, and casseroles, but many people enjoy them with just butter and herbs. By adding corn to lima beans you create succotash, which can also include other shell beans. My husband thoroughly enjoys succotash, but I don’t care for lima beans so I pass on succotash as well.
Succotash was quite popular during the Great Depression in the United States since it was relatively inexpensive and the ingredients were readily available. Even today in many New England states, including Pennsylvania and others, Succotash is often seen gracing the table for traditional family Thanksgiving meals.
A word of caution regarding lima beans: Don’t ever eat them raw. Uncooked lima beans contain linamarin, a kind of cyanide that’s potentially toxic. But cooking lima beans destroys that compound, and once they’ve been cooked, they are safe to eat.
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