Lima beans can go from seed to serving bowl in just two months. This highly nutritious bean is part of the legume family. Their nutty flavor makes them a versatile food. Lima beans can be prepared as a main or side dish, or can serve as a healthy, crunchy addition to salads, casseroles and other recipes.
From Beans to Sprouts
The legume is the fruit of the lima bean plant. It begins as a seed, and it is the edible part of the plant. When a bean is set in soil and watered, it breaks open to begin the growth process. It first develops roots, which absorb the water and nutrients from the soil necessary for growth and development.
The sprout is the first growth that appears from the lima bean seed. Lima bean sprouts grow underground. They are nutritious and can be dug up, picked, and eaten before they have the chance to grow into a seedling.
Seedlings, Stems and Leaves
The seedling is the first part of the lima bean plant that grows up and out of the soil. The seedling develops tendrils, or stems, which allow the plant to grow up and out, creating a vine. The vine supports the plant and carries water and nutrients to the cells of the plant.
Leaves emerge from the vine. The job of the leaf is to collect chlorophyll from sunlight. Chlorophyll assists in the process of photosynthesis, during which carbon dioxide is converted to sugars and other organic composites, which enable the plant to grow.
Flowers, Pods and Beans
The lima bean plant produces flowers, which either can self-pollinate, or can be pollinated by bees. Lima plant flowers that are pollinated by bees yield about 30 percent more bean pods than those shielded from outside pollination. When the flower is pollinated, it creates seeds, which begin the process of growing more lima beans.
The pod is the natural container in which the lima beans grow and from which they are harvested. When the pods become round and fat, they are ready for picking. The lima bean is the edible part of the plant when removed or "shelled" from the pod.
Lima beans are low in calories and rich in dietary fibers, which help lower cholesterol and blood sugar. This makes them an excellent food for individuals diagnosed with diabetes. Like all legumes, they are a good source of protein, and assist in strengthening the immune system.
Lima beans are outstanding sources of Vitamins A, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, C, D, E, and K. They are also an excellent source of minerals, including boron, calcium, chloride, chromium, copper, iron, iodine, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium, and zinc.