What Are Lima Beans?
Also known as butter beans, limas probably originated near Lima, Peru, which is how they got the name. These plump, kidney-shaped beans have a meaty texture. Home-grown beans are much better in flavor than anything you could buy. Limas are available as both bush and pole varieties and are a warm-season crop.
Growing Lima Beans
Limas are typical beans in many respects but they do demand warm weather and a long growing season. Don’t try to plant them until the soil is thoroughly warm – about two or three weeks after the last frost. They prefer a fertile, well-drained soil in full sun. Plant one-and-a-half to two inches deep. Space bush beans three to six inches apart and pole beans six to 10 inches apart. Use a stout trellis for pole limas.
Lima Bean Varieties
You have lots of choices when growing your own limas, such as:
- Aubrey Deane – pole, maroon beans splashed with white, very productive.
- King of the Garden – huge plants (over nine feet) with large, almost sweet beans.
- Sieva/Carolina – pole bean with small white beans, excellent flavor.
- Henderson Bush – small white bean, good for freezing.
- Fordhook Bush – large white beans with nutty flavor.
Preparing the Beans
Limas must be shelled from their pods. Four pounds of unshelled raw limas yields about two pints of frozen beans. After shelling, sort the beans into large, medium and small groups. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Blanch beans according to size, no more than one pound at a time. Blanch small limas two minutes, medium limas three minutes and large limas four minutes.
Turn freezer to the lowest possible setting. As soon as the beans are blanched, drain and quickly chill in ice water. Drain for a few minutes on paper towels. Arrange chilled, dry beans on a large jelly roll pan in a single layer. Place in the coldest part of the freezer. When frozen, package in meal-size plastic bags or containers.
Storage and Cooking
Properly frozen lima beans will keep very well in the freezer. Those in zip-lock plastic bags will typically be good for nine months. In vacuum-packed bags they may keep over a year. Cook two cups unthawed frozen beans in one cup boiling water. Cooking time varies from three to 10 minutes, depending on the size of the beans. Taste every minute or so the first time you cook.