What Are Large Lima Beans?
- Originated in Peru
- Featured on the pottery of 15th-century Peruvians
- Popular in Southeast Asia
The Lima Bean Story
Packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals, the lima bean is one of the most nutritious foods in the world. A favorite in the American South, limas are actually named after the capital of Peru, and they have more nicknames than any other bean: butter bean, Rangoon bean, Burma bean, Madagascar bean, and chad bean. Like common beans, they originated in Peru where they were cultivated even before corn. They are so entrenched in Peruvian culture that they appear on the pottery of the Moche people, who inhabited northern Peru in the 15th century. Lima beans were also grown by Native Americans in the southern part of the United States and were brought back to Europe in the 16th century by explorers. Today they are also popular in Southeast Asia.
Lima beans come in three varieties: large, small, and dwarf. The smaller, pale green lima beans also have a number of nicknames: baby limas, sieva beans, Caroline beans, civet, seewee, and sivvy. Baby limas and green baby limas are considered milder and less starchy than large lima beans, which have an earthy flavor. Some American green baby lima beans are exported to Japan where they’re cooked, sweetened, and pureed into a paste known as anko, used as an ingredient in pastries and desserts.
The larger, moon-shaped limas (also called butter beans) are used in a variety of dishes. In America, they are featured in succotash and sugar bean recipes, as well as Kentucky burgoo, a savory stew commonly served at Derby Day parties. Lima beans also appear in paella and gigandes plaki, a Greek vegetarian baked bean dish. Baby limas and green baby limas have a delicate flavor and are delicious in curries and sausage stews. Lima beans must be fully boiled (or otherwise cooked through) before eating; like many legumes, they contain natural toxic compounds that are removed by cooking.