Aug 1, 2013 by

I am sure that most people think butter beans are grown in cans or are manufactured as a dry product, for more often than not, this is the way they are purchased at supermarkets and Butter beans come in various colours ans sizesvarious stores.

The real truth is much simpler for the growing beans are called Lima beans, there being more than 100 named varieties, the popular name of Butter beans (as they are called in the south) is mainly due to it’s taste, and the name adopted in the south of America. For instance the very popular Jackson Butter bean was introduced in 1888 by a farmer:- Thomas Jackson of Georgia.

The Butter bean has an American heritage, (and is part of the legume family) as it is originally from near Guatemala, but gradually migrated to both North and South America, where it has been cultivated by the natives almost as universally as maize. Butter bean seeds are available in both types,  climbing (twining vines) or as an Herbaceous bush variety.

Lima beans are perennial by nature, although they are mostly grown as annuals. For growing purposes the climbing or vine varieties can be treated like runner beans, but please be aware that they can grow as Pole or climbing beans do grow tallhigh as 12 feet, whilst some of the bush varieties grow to only 2 feet or less.

Both the Seiva and Florida speckled butter bean are prolific producers in the state of Florida, whilst the butterpea varieties are a smaller, bush variety and tend to be popular in the South of the U.S. Baby limas, are not young lima beans as some people believe but are usually a bush type “Fordhook”.

Sow the seeds in well drained soil when the temperature is 50 degrees F and there is no chance of frost, but if the temperature stays at 85 F or more they will keep growing vegetation until the temperature drops in fall/autumn which is when the flowers will start appearing, as the flowers produce a large amount of nectar the bees will pollinate the plants, the white-yellowish flowers are quite small and will set the pods  until the first frosts, harvest when the pods become plump, allowing you to eat them fresh or frozen.

BUTTER BEANS (Glycene Max)

SOY BEAN or SOYABEANGlycene Max Butterbeans

This butter bean is all of buttery in taste and a high yielder, acclaimed as the finest soybeans, the bush plant grows to around 2 feet tall and has plenty of branches on which the pods can develop, being stocky they will stand well on their own producing a great number of pods with at least 3 beans per pod, and the beans are easily separated from the pods. Thought to have originated from Manchuria around 3,000 B.C. and introduced into Europe in the 17th century, but it was David Fairchild who finally introduced the butter bean to America in 1902.

Christmas pole Lima beans   CHRISTMAS POLE LIMA BEAN (Calico Lima bean)

An heir loom variety, the Christmas pole lima bean dates back to the 1840′s, and climbs to around 10 feet in height, producing 4″ to 6″ long pods each containing 4 or 5 beans that are flat, light cream in colour with markings, having a light buttery flavour that tend to be a little milder than most lima beans.

FLORIDA BUTTER BEAN SPECKLED (Calico).Florida speckled Butter beans

The Florida speckled butter bean has one or two aliases for it is also known as Florida butter bean or Florida calico pole lima bean. closely ressembling the Christmas pole lima, The Florida butter bean produces pods that are 3.1/2″ long in clusters, each pod containing 3 or 4 beans that are a  buff colour with irregular stripes or spots, on vines that can grow to ten feet in height. A good variety in  most climates, but an excellent producer in hot humid conditions.

Jackson Wonder Bean Limas    JACKSON WONDER BEAN (Limas).

A butter bean (Lima) produced by Thomas Jackson, is a very popular heirloom variety and  under hot/dry conditions will produce a great yield, with pods (producing 3 to 5 beans) a buff colour  and the seeds or beans a purple/ black mottling. In the northern part of America this plant is also a  good yielder.King of the Garden Butterbean


An old fashioned favourite for the home garden, King of the Garden was introduced in1883, growing large vines 8 to 10 feet tall producing 4to 6″ pods containing 4-6 cream coloured beans (or seeds), generally giving high yields over a long season.

Madagascar Butter beans              MADAGASCAR BEAN.

A Lima (Butter bean) bean, which when planted in it’s first year does not produce a great  crop, and will die back at the end of the year, then in the following year (due to it being a perennial) it  grows even stronger giving a high yield ( each seed will yield for many years). A vigorous climber,  adaptable to many varieties of soil conditions and a hardy bean for warmer climates, produces pods of young white beans that can be eaten or left on the vines to mature and dry into the familiar speckled red and white beans.

SIEVA (Carolina).Sieva Butterbeans

The Sieva bean is a variety of Lima bean, producing small pods containing 3 or 4 flat beans, and to say it is a pole or climbing bean is no exageration, for it can grow to ten or even twelve feet tall. One of the very popular beans in Southern U.S.A. Like all Lima beans they need the whole of the season to mature, the Siieva bean was listed in Jefferson’s gardening book in 1794 as the “White Carolina” bean.



White Dixie (baby Lima beans)       WHITE DIXIE BEAN (Bush Baby Lima).

White Dixie bean as it’s name suggests have small white Lima beans and mature earlier than most Limas, with a delicious flavour which is all of sweet, nutty and tender. A bush variety that prefers sandy well drained soils. Pick the pods when bulging rather than leaving them to become yellow or dry.

Whilst the butter beans (or lima beans) listed above are only a few of the many varieties, I  would be happy for anyone to send me a description of their favourite butter bean (with a picture) to add to the list, allowing others to enjoy a bean they may never have tasted.

Always remember that if you are going to use dried beans in your cooking, that they should be soaked in water for around 4 hours allowing the beans to take in moisture.

When cooking butter beans or Lima beans they can tend to foam, to stop this from happening add around a teaspoon full of butter, oil, margerine or similar this in turn will add a little  flavour to the beans. Housewives in general are always looking for tasty vegetables to add some extra  flavour or colour to a meal, so with the variation in colours and taste, together with the healthy vitamins,  butter beans could be a very good option.

Related Posts


Share This

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *