Exulted for their slightly buttery flavor and smooth texture, giving them the nickname "butter bean," Lima beans are available throughout the year, especially in the Southern U.S., where the temperature is best for growth (between 70 and 80 degrees). Lima beans can be found dried or canned in most grocery stores and farmer's markets throughout the country.
Lima beans originated in the country of Peru, and are believed to have been grown there since 6000 B.C.
In appearance, Lima beans are flat and slightly curved. Lima beans come in large sizes, such as the Big Momma bean, small and dwarf sizes such as the Henderson Bush variety, and are often green, or speckled, like the Giant Calico bean, in appearance. Some varieties also come in red (Calico), white (Dixie) and purple (Christmas pole). Large beans are about the size of a penny while the smallest are the size of a pea.
The beans are smooth to the touch and hard when fresh. There are three bush varieties--the Henderson/Thorogreen, Eastland, Baby Fordhook and Fordhook 242--as well as three pole types: the Giant Speckled/Christmas/Speckled Calico, Big 6/Big Mama and King of the Garden.
Speckled Lima beans have a stronger butter flavor and are more earthy in taste and texture in comparison to the solid green variety. Smaller Lima beans, which are also called Carolina beans, civet, seewee and sivy, are less starchy than larger varieties. The dwarf beans, also called butter peas, are buttery in taste and have less starch than the larger beans.
Fresh Lima beans are picked from the plant and removed from a pod. The pod is usually around three inches in length and yields two to four beans. Lima beans should not be eaten raw directly from the pod, as they contain linamarin, which, when chewed, releases poisonous cyanide compounds.
Commercial growers are limited to varieties that produce a small amount of linamarin. When the bean is cooked linamarin is ruined, deactivating it and making the bean safe to eat. Cook the beans in boiling water, or steam, until the bean is tender (5 to 10 minutes). At this point the linamarin is deactivated. If the Lima beans are dried, they should be cooked in a pot for 1 to 2 hours, or until tender.
Lima beans are a good source of dietary fiber and protein. One cup of Lima beans contains 13 grams of fiber, a massive 52.6 percent of a person's daily requirement. The fiber of Lima beans is particularly good at lowering cholesterol.
Lima bean fiber also prevents glucose, or blood sugar, spikes after eating, making it a frequently-chosen vegetable for those suffering from diabetes. Lima beans are also fat free. and contain a lot of fiber.