How Do I Choose the Best Lima Beans?

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  • Written By: Andrew Kirmayer
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 09 August 2019
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Lima beans are kidney-shaped seeds that are usually a greenish or cream color. Other varieties can include white, brown, black, or red; the many types are often found in grocery stores and prepared in different ways. They are generally sold fresh, dried, or frozen; each can be either contained in pods, in groups of three or four beans, or in shucked form. The pods should be crisp to be sure the lima beans inside are fresh, while shucked beans generally should not have any discolored or soft spots on them.

Also called butter beans because of their texture, lima beans can be sold fresh at specialty stores. These are rarer than frozen or dried beans, but they should generally be uniform in color and not have any wrinkles on the surface. The products should also be firm and have a solid green color; any yellowing can indicate that the product is no longer safe to eat. Mold can also form on the surface, so one should also be sure not to purchase lima beans that are infested or have somehow deteriorated in quality.


Dried lima beans are often sold in closed containers. Choosing some products over others then usually becomes a matter of whether the cover is closed properly or not. If they are not covered tightly, then you can assume the beans are not as fresh as they could be. Moisture, insect damage, or cracking are usually visible if the product is kept dry in a container.

For frozen lima beans, shaking the container can help you see whether they have clumped together. This can indicate that the product has previously been thawed out and frozen again; freshness is typically reduced if this has occurred. Once the best beans have been chosen, you can usually keep them fresh in an airtight container. If stored in a cool, dry place, they often stay fresh for up to six months; once the lima beans have been cooked, however, freshness is typically expected to last for about one day.

Preparing lima beans is often accomplished by soaking or boiling them in water. Even the freshest beans should be cooked, because there are substances that can stop enzymes in the body from working, causing red blood cells to stick to one another. Limas generally have nutrients such as potassium, tryptophan, fiber, and magnesium. A mineral called molybdenum, which can break down potentially toxic substances called sulfites, is typically included as well.



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