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October 16, 2010 / Malcolm Dalebö

Discover Lima Beans

Lima bean

  • The Lima beanPhaseolus lunatus, is grown for its seed, which is eaten as a vegetable. 
  • It is commonly known as the lima bean or butter bean; it is also known as Haba beanPallar beanBurma beanGuffin beanHibbert beanSieva beanRangoon beanMadagascar beanPaigaPaigyaprolific beancivet beansugar bean or đậu ngự (Vietnamese).
  • These beans have a buttery, sweet, starchy taste and a smooth texture. 
  • When cooked for long periods, they create a thick, gravy-like liquid. 
  • Lima beans are native to South America and are popular in Andean foods. 
  • They’re also used widely in regional Southern US cuisine. 
  • Soak overnight before cooking.
Lima butter bean
  • The term butter bean is widely used for a large, flat and white variety of lima bean (P. lunatus var. macrocarpus).
  • In the Southern United States the Sieva type are traditionally called butter beans, also otherwise known as the Dixie or Henderson type. 
  • In that area, lima beans and butter beans are seen as two distinct types of beans.
  • In the United Kingdom, “butter beans” refer to either dried beans which can be purchased to re-hydrate or the canned variety which are ready to use. 
  • In culinary use, lima beans and butter beans are distinctly different, the former being small and green, the latter large and yellow. 
  • In areas where both are considered to be lima beans, the green variety may be labeled as “baby” (and less commonly “junior”) limas.
  • Both bush and pole (vine) varieties exist, the latter from one to four meters in height. 
  • The bush varieties mature earlier than the pole varieties. 
  • The pods are up to 15 cm long. 
  • The mature seeds are 1 to 3 cm long and oval to kidney shaped. 
  • In most varieties the seeds are quite flat, but in the “potato” varieties the shape approaches spherical. 
  • White seeds are common, but black, red, orange and variously mottled seeds are also known. 
  • The immature seeds are uniformly green. 
  • Lima beans typically yield 2900 to 5000 kilograms of seed and 3000 to 8000 kilograms of biomass per hectare.
  • Bush types:
    • Henderson/Thorogreen, 65 days
    • Eastland, 68 days
    • Baby Fordhook, 70 days
    • Fordhook 242, 75 days, 1945 AAS winner
  • Pole types:
    • Giant Speckled/Christmas/Speckled Calico, 78 days
    • Big 6/Big Mama, 80 days
    • King of the Garden, 85 days
    • Madagascar
  • Like many other legumes, Lima beans are a good source of cholesterol-lowering fibre. It lowers cholesterol and its high fibre content prevents blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly after a meal, while providing virtually fat free high quality protein. 
  • It is a good choice for people with diabetes suffering with insulin resistance. Lima beans can help balance blood sugar levels while providing steady, slow-burning energy.
  • Lima beans may reduce the medical dosage needed to combat cholesterol in the form of natural food.
  • Lima beans have the trace mineral molybdenum, an integral component of the enzyme sulfite oxidase, and it detoxifies sulfites. 
  • Sulfites are a type of preservative generally added to prepared foods.
  • Lima beans are high in dietary fibers, which means that blood sugar does not rise high after eating beans. This is due to the presence of higher amounts of absorption-slowing protein in the beans, and their high soluble fiber content. Soluble fiber absorbs water in the stomach forming a gel that slows down the metabolism of the bean’s carbohydrates. The fiber is also the reason for the cholesterol lowering function of beans. Fiber binds with the bile acids that are used to make cholesterol. Fiber is not absorbed by intestine and it exits the body taking the bile acids with it. As a result, the cholesterol is lowered. 
  • Lima beans also has insoluble fiber, which prevents constipation, digestive disorders, irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulitis.
  • Lima beans help prevent heart disease, since eating high fiber foods, such as lima beans reduces cholesterol level. Lima promotes healthy heart because of its folate and magnesium. Folate lowers levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that is an intermediate product in an important metabolic process called the methylation cycle. Elevated blood levels of homocysteine are an independent risk factor for heart attack, stroke, or peripheral vascular disease.
  • Lima’s magnesium content is a calcium channel blocker. When enough magnesium is around, veins and arteries relax, which reduces resistance and improves the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.
  • Apart from providing slow burning complex carbohydrates, lima beans can increase your energy by helping to restore more iron. 
  • For menstruating women, who are more at risk for iron deficiency, lima beans can be added for iron. 
  • Iron is an integral component of hemoglobin, which transports oxygen from the lungs to all body cells, and is also part of key enzyme systems for energy production and metabolism.
  • Lima beans are a very good source of the trace mineral manganese, helps enzymes important for energy production and antioxidant defense.


  • Raw lima beans and butter beans contain linamarin, a cyanogenic glucoside. The beans are rendered safe when cooked. 
  • Low-linamarin varieties are typically used for culinary purposes. 
  • It is possible for one handful of raw beans to make a person violently ill.


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