Silly Food Facts
Why are these flat, healthy beans called “lima”? Several thousand years ago they originated in Latin America, and since dry beans are easily carried and stored, explorers in the 1500s used them to restock their ships’ supplies. As the story goes, shipping crates were typically marked with their place of origin, so at the bustling port of Lima, Peru, all those boxes of beans were labeled “Lima – Peru.” The lima bean was named!
Why Our Bodies Love It
Lima beans excel as a source of fiber: they contain soluble fiber, which lowers cholesterol and keeps blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly (good for those with diabetes), and they also provide insoluble fiber, which helps with digestive disorders. In addition, lima beans are a great non-fat source of both protein and iron.
Care and Picking
Green or white? Bush or pole? Most commonly-grown lima beans are green when eaten fresh, but turn white when dried. Bush lima beans are easy to grow commercially, but gardeners say pole beans have better flavor. Lima beans are a warm-climate plant that likes sunlight and water—but let the soil dry in between watering. Once the pods are plump, split open the pods and pop out the lima beans.
Tips and Warnings
Fresh lima beans can be difficult to find, but sometimes farmers’ markets will offer them. Most lima beans are frozen, dried, or canned. Some people say to never eat raw lima beans. That’s because these beans contain a natural cyanide compound that can be dangerous. Most countries like the U.S., however, require all commercially grown lima beans to have an extremely low cyanogen level. Don’t worry: lima beans are always safe after cooking.