Thursday, December 30, 2010

Learning to Love Lima Beans!

Sometimes I wonder if I missed out on a childhood rite of passage. I mean, aren't kids simply hard-wired to hate Lima beans? Every time I heard the words Lima Bean, they were followed by shrieks of disgust, whether on television or in the lunch line. The strangest part was that even though I was the pickiest eater in town (peanut butter and jelly on white bread, every single day), I seemed to be the only one not fully understanding what was so gross about Lima beans. I quite liked them, in fact.

The only bean that looks like someone with an orange peel smile, Lima beans make ME smile. How can a food that looks like a happy face be threatening? I didn't understand it, but chalked it up to my mom's awesome kitchen skills. Obviously, everyone else under the age of 10 had never tried my mom's recipe for ham and Lima bean soup.

Dating as far back as 6000 B.C., the Lima bean has been cultivated in the tropical climes of South America and the Caribbean. Although known by other names, such as the chad bean, butter bean, haba bean, pallar beans, burma beans, guffin beans and hibbert beans, the common name comes from Peru's capital city of Lima. Just to confuse you further, and I'm not saying that any of my 10 year old friends were right, but the smiley-face bean does have some evil properties. Raw Lima beans (including dried beans ground into flour) contain cyanide compounds that can inhibit digestive enzymes and cause red blood cells to clump together, resulting in sickness or death. However, soaking and cooking the beans before eating them, will kill off these poisonous toxins and render the beans harmless. What you're left with is a delicate, butter-flavored bean with a creamy texture.

Lima beans are actually the seeds found inside a 3-inch long, flat, curved pod. Usually, 2-4 green or cream colored seeds are found in one pod. There are also a few varieties that can be found in other colors, like red, white, black, brown or even purple. As with most legumes, Lima beans are rich in fiber to lower cholesterol and avoid spikes in blood sugar levels. Low in calories and nearly fat-free, they are also an excellent source of the trace mineral, molybdenum, to detoxify sulfites, magnesium for lowering your risk of heart attack and iron for increasing your energy.

While difficult to find in the United States, fresh Lima beans can sometimes be found at farmer's markets, but dried, canned or frozen beans are always available. When choosing the fresh variety, look for pods that are firm and glossy, without wrinkling or yellowing. If the beans have been removed from their pods, inspect them closely for signs of mold or decay. Look for green or greenish-white, unblemished beans.

Until researching these delicious beans, I'd not realized how many ways they can be used. Besides ham or root vegetable soups, they can be pureed with garlic and herbs to make a unique sandwich spread or vegetable dip.
Succotash, a traditional Native American dish, is made from a combination of Lima beans and corn that can be served as a side dish or wrapped in corn tortillas for Lima bean burritos.

Here are a few recipes to kick start your love of Lima beans!

Easy Crock Pot Ham and Lima Bean Soup

Microwave Succotash Photo by Lainey6605

Hillbilly Beans
Butter Bean Dip with Red Onion and Olives
Marinated Bean Salad

1 comment:

  1. I have to admit, I know absolutly about the lima beans, but I did learn quite abig today. Now I will have to get lima beans and find out how good they really are; your photos look great.


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