Lima bean

From Academic Kids

Lima bean
Immature lima beans
Scientific classification

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Nutritional information for lima beans

The Lima bean or butter bean (Phaseolus lunatus, Fabaceae) is grown as a vegetable for its mature and immature beans.

Origin, distribution and varieties

The lima bean is of Andean and Mesoamerican origin. Two separate domestication events are believed to have occurred. The first, taking place in the Andes around 6500 BC, produced a large-seeded variety (Lima type), while the second, taking place most likely in Mesoamerica around 800 AD, produced a small-seeded variety (Sieva type). By 1300 AD, cultivation spread to North America, and in the sixteenth century arrived and began to be cultivated in the Eastern Hemisphere.

The small-seeded wild form (Sieva type) is found distributed from Mexico to Argentina, generally below 1600 meters above sea level, while the large-seeded wild form (Lima type) is found distributed in Ecuador and the north of Peru, between 320 and 2030 meters above sea level.

Both bush and pole (vine) varieties exist, the latter from one to four meters in height. 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.


The lima bean is palatable and nutritious both immature as a fresh vegetable and mature as a dry pulse.

Immature lima beans are one of the principal ingredients of succotash.

Dry lima beans require lengthy soaking of about twelve hours and thorough cooking. Both soaking water and cooking water should be discarded to eliminate flatulence-inducing oligosaccharides.

Food and forage uses of the plant itself are limited by the content of the glucoside linamarin, which gives off hydrocyanic acid. This glucoside develops in the last stages of maturation and is concentrated in the youngest shoots and in the seeds. Although the seeds of different varieties differ in their linamarin content, lima beans should always be thoroughly cooked for safety.


The lima bean is a perennial plant usually cultivated as an annual plant. It prefers warm temperatures, but is tolerant of drought.

Harvest is from 65 to 115 days after planting, according to the variety. Harvesting must be done in a staggered way because production is prolonged and there may be fully mature dry pods present at the same time as new flowers.

Lima beans typically yield 2900 to 5000 kilograms of seed and 3000 to 8000 kilograms of biomass per hectare.

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