Records found in old Peruvian tombs show that lima beans have been around for centuries. European explorers found this vegetable in Lima, Peru, and this is where the name comes from. Lima beans probably originated in Guatemala, and are still grown in tropical regions.
The flourishing dry lima bean industry of southern California seems to have started in 1865. In this year, Henry Lewis bought a few hundred pounds of lima bean seeds from a tramp steamer from Peru that had put in port at Santa Barbara. Most of the dry lima bean crop is produced along the Pacific coast from Santa Ana to Santa Barbara, and Florida is also a large producer of lima beans. The peak months of supply are July through October.
There are two types of lima beans. The large “potato” type have large pods and are fleshy and not likely to split at maturity. The baby lima bean is an annual plant that matures early. The pods are small and numerous, and are likely to split open at maturity.
When selecting lima beans, look for quality pods that are fresh, bright green in color, and well-filled. Lima beans, when shelled, should be plump with tender skins, green to greenish white. The skin should puncture when it is tested. Hard, tough skins mean that the bean is over mature, and these beans usually lack flavor. Lima beans are often called “butter” beans.
Lima beans can be used either dry or fresh. Fresh lima beans are alkaline and have high protein value. Dry limas are hard to digest, and the dry skin is irritating to an inflamed digestive system. Lima beans are beneficial to the muscular system.
Lima beans are excellent as a puree in soft diets for stomach disorders. They make a tasty baked dish, such as bean loaf. One pound of lima beans contains as many nutrients as two pounds of meat!
Dry beans have high protein content of almost 18%, but fresh beans are only 4% protein. The kidney bean and navy bean are very similar in makeup and therapeutic value to the lima bean.
NUTRIENTS IN ONE POUND (unshelled)
Protein: 13.6 g
Fat: 1.5 g
Carbohydrates: 42.8 g
Calcium: 115 mg
Phosphorus: 288 mg
Iron: 4.2 mg
Vitamin A: 520 I.U.
Thiamine: .38 mg
Riboflavin: .21 mg
Niacin: 2.5 mg
Ascorbic acid: 48 mg