I am on a mission to cook and eat as many varieties of beans as possible. This is another in a series of my observations about those beans.
Lima beans were a staple in my household when I was growing up. My father was a picky eater, but he loved to eat lima beans. Dad’s favorite was the big Fordhook lima bean, and he preferred his limas to be green and not speckled. My mother and I were a bit more adventurous, and while we both ate limas, they weren’t necessarily our favorite food unless perhaps they were paired with fresh from the cob corn and turned into succotash. Today’s featured bean is the Christmas Lima, and they are most definitely NOT my father’s lima bean!
The Christmas Lima is a giant among beans. In the U.S. it’s sometimes called Chestnut Lima, while in Italy they call it Fagioli del Papa (Pope’s Beans). The dried white beans are very large, as you can see in the above photo, and have dark red splashes of color. All lima beans are thought to originally come from Peru, thus the name ‘Lima’ beans. Botanically all lima beans are in the species Phaseolus lunatus, which is different from most garden beans which are P. vulgaris or runner beans which are P. coccineus.
In the garden, Christmas Lima beans are pole beans with a vigorous growing habit. And like most other lima beans, they do well in warm weather. The Seed Savers Exchange says they were first cultivated in America around 1840. The beans can be used at both the fresh shell stage, and after they have dried. I have not grown them in my garden, but I would love to give them a try someday.
In the kitchen the beans cook up big and plump, and have a creamy interior and rich flavor and texture said to resemble chestnuts. The beans darken after cooking, but retain much of their striking coloration. I really like them in salads, and they hold their shape quite well used like that. In the bean salad in the below photo they are joined by chickpeas and Red Nightfall beans.
I also enjoyed them paired with fresh corn in succotash. That was a real summer time treat when fresh local sweet corn was available. Some succotash recipes call for other ingredients like onions or peppers but I like to keep it simple most of the time. The Christmas Lima bean has made it to the Slow Food USA Ark of Taste, where it joins other delicious and distinctive foods.
I hope you have enjoyed this review of the Christmas Lima bean. In the U.S. They are available from several sources including Rancho Gordo, North Bay Trading and the Seed Savers Exchange. Seed stock is also available from Baker Creek. More bean tasting continues at Happy Acres, and I will be back with more reviews soon.