Lima beans get their name from Lima, Peru where they were cultivated even before corn. All common beans, or legumes, originated from Central and South America. Fresh lima beans are one of many varieties of fresh shell beans available at local groceries, farmers markets, and our own gardens in the summer months. Ford hooks are most popular and still the standard as they yield early. Our southern big butter beans are just baby limas left to grow to maturity. Legumes are valued for all their nutrients but especially for their high amounts of vegetable protein and when combined with various nuts, seeds, and grains in the diet, make a complete protein.
Peak Time: Summer months
Average Price: $6.99/pound, shelled
Tips for Selection and Storage: Look for fresh dark green pods that are velvet, firm, and not flabby. The beans should be plump and even in green color. Unshelled beans may be refrigerated for a day or two if not cooked immediately. Of course, frozen, dried, and canned baby limas are available year round.
Tips for Preparation: Fresh baby lima beans should be shelled right before cooking. About three pounds of unshelled beans yields one pound shelled which will serve from four to five people. All legumes must be cooked thoroughly since they contain poisonous properties if eaten raw. Fresh cooked baby limas are good cold in vegetable salads or hot in soups or casseroles and go well with ham. Lima beans combine with corn for traditional Native American succotash. Baby limas have a creamier texture and more delicate taste than the mature big butter beans. Dried lima beans will need to be soaked before cooking.
Nutritional Highlights: Lima beans are high in dietary fiber and protein. Limas have more protein that many beans with 15 grams of vegetable protein per cup. They are rich in the antioxidant vitamins A, C, E, as well as vitamin B6, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, biotin and excellent sources of the minerals potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and manganese. They are especially high in iron, more than most other legumes. Limas are high in both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber with 9 grams per cup. This dietary fiber contains prebiotics that aid in the production of healthy gut bacteria and digestion, controlling blood sugar levels and lowering blood cholesterol.