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lima bean


Synonyms: sieva bean, Madagascar bean, butter bean

botanical name: Phaseolus lunatus


Origin, areas of cultivation


Lima-bean bushes grow in tropical lowlands at elevations below 1200 m. Their name stems from the fact that the Europeans first encountered them in Peru (capital city, Lima). They brought the beans from there to Europe, where they grow poorly, however, and have low yields. In the southern states of the USA they are easier to cultivate, as they require a hot climate to grow. Most of the newer varieties stem from there. Lima beans are also widespread in the East Indies, Africa and Madagascar. In southern regions (from Guatemala to Peru) the plants bear larger fruits, while further north the smaller varieties are common.




As lima beans are usually sold in dried form they are available all year.


Appearance, taste, characteristics


There are both climbing and bushy-growing lima-bean plants. Both kinds in turn have types with small and types with large seeds. Their colours may differ: white, beige, green, pale brown, red striped or speckled. Beans of the variety 'Cliff Dweller', for example, are small and have purple spots; the variety 'King of the Garden' forms large, white to light-green seeds.


Although the lima-bean pods are edible, they are not normally used. The seeds have a mild flavour and a soft, not too mealy consistency. They become soft when cooked.



100 g contain:



Lima beans, cooked

Energy (kcal)


Water (g)


Protein (g)


Fat (g)


Carbohydrates (g)


Fiber (g)


Vitamin A (RE) (µg)


Vitamin E (mg)


Vitamin B1 (mg)


Vitamin B2 (mg)


Niacin (mg)


Vitamin B6 (mg)


Folic acid (µg)


Vitamin C (mg)


Potassium (mg)


Sodium (mg)


Calcium (mg)


Magnesium (mg)


Phosphorous (mg)


Iron (mg)



Harmful substances


All coloured varieties contain toxic cyanide compounds and must by all means be cooked before they are eaten. During cooking they release hydrogen cyanide into the water, which therefore must be discarded.


Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation


The beans are harvested when they are almost mature and the pods are thickly swollen but have not yet turned yellow.


The seeds become soft when cooked but do not fall apart; therefore they are good for preparing as a vegetable, in stews and in salads.


Dried beans must be soaked for about 12 hours before they are cooked. The cooking time is then about 1-1.5 hours. Further preparation tips can be found in the chapter "Legumes, pulses".


When preparing lima beans you must always discard the water they have cooked in, because they release harmful hydrogen cyanide into the water. The beans can be eaten without hesitation after they are cooked, however.





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