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Heirloom Christmas Lima Beans

By Diana Wind (windDecember 20, 2013

Christmas Lima Beans add nutrition to any meal any time of the year. Have you ever tried to grow old fashioned heirloom beans? Do you have a negative opinion of lima beans in particular? If yes, you may change your mind after tasting the earthy, chestnut flavor of these not-just-for-the-holiday delights.

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Start a new tradition and serve Christmas Limas during the holidays. Once you have tasted them, they may become a favorite during the year as well.

Phaseolus lunatus 'Christmas Lima'
Other names for Christmas Lima beans include: Giant Speckled Pole, Large Speckled Pole, Calico pole lima beans, Giant Florida Pole, Giant Butter Speckled or Chestnut Lima.

Steve Sando, owner of Rancho Gordo, an heirloom bean company in Napa, CA, says, "In Italy you'll find Christmas Limas called "Fagioli del Papa" (Pope's beans) - a true lima bean with all the 'meat' of limas but with a chestnut flavor. The beans are big and bold and can stand up to a chile sauce or curry, or simply be enjoyed with a drizzle of olive oil and a few grates of dry goat cheese." Rancho Gordo's website suggests using Christmas Limas in soups, side dishes and curries, or preparing them with lots of garlic and sautéed wild mushrooms. Beans taste great pureed in dips too.

The giant, cream-colored pole beans have unique maroon speckles. The plants originated in Peru, making them a true Lima bean. The beans grow nearly as large as a US 25-cent coin. Unlike a typical green lima been, their flavor has hints of chestnut - unique for lima beans - that one must experience.

Vigorous, heat-tolerant vines can reach 8 to 10-foot tall. Provide something for the vines to climb on, such as bamboo poles lined with string. Direct sow the beans 1-inch deep, 6 to 8 inches apart in full sun. Allow 71 to 80 days to maturity.

Expect heavy yields: approximately 25 pounds of shelled beans per 100-foot row, according to Henry Field's Seed and Nursery Co. Allow pods to dry on the plant before breaking them open to collect the seeds.

On March 1, 2007 Dave's Garden (DG) member 'berrygirl' from Braselton, GA (Zone 7b) wrote in a Gardener's note on DG Plant files: "This is my favorite "butterbean", and the only kind of large lima-type bean my grandparents would grow- or eat. I never ate a white or green lima until I was almost an adult! Dates back to the 1840's and is very productive even in intense heat."

Lima Bean Nutrition

Lima Beans provide excellent dietary fiber and nutrients such as potassium, folate and iron. All beans are considered a lean protein food. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, diets including beans may reduce your risk of heart disease and certain cancers.

Lima Bean Nutrition: 1 cup (188g): Protein 15g (30% DV); Dietary Fiber 13g (52% DV); Potassium 955 mg (27% DV); Folate 156 mcg (39% DV); Zinc 1.8 mg (12% DV); Iron 4.5 mg (25% DV)

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Percent Daily Value (%DV) is based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Lima Bean Nutrition by Diana Wind, RD using USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 26

Related Links

US Dry Bean Council Dietary Guidelines

Christmas Lima Beans and Quinoa with Beets and Avocado

Falling in Love with Limas

  About Diana Wind  
Diana WindDiana is a registered dietitian nutritionist with a passion for gardening and sustainable foods. She is a graduate of the Academy of Culinary Arts and member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Food from the garden fuels her enthusiasm for eating right and nutritional science. She especially loves gardening as part of a healthy lifestyle. Gardening engages us with nature, gives us health benefits from exercise, and rewards us with fresh, nutritious foods. To assess your food and garden activity level, visit or her blog. You can also follow Diana on Google.

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