Oh Beans!

Just a short note on beans.

I’ve looked and looked and still can’t find much in the way of lima beans. Not canned. Not dry. Not frozen. Not why.

I did find a reference to an eastern coastal area that still has a lima bean festival but no longer grows them as they planted houses instead. Another in Washington State that said very high grain prices had farmers swapping from lower profit lima beans over to grains. But those are just two small local stories. Another food forum had folks complaining about the present shortage, but also saying limas have had this cycle before.

So what to do?

Well, I did find some dry large limas at Walmart some weeks back, and a local Italian Grocery had canned “Butter Beans” (large white limas) from Italy, so I scored a bunch of them. But I really like the little green ones too, canned or frozen. Big and little are two different cultivars with somewhat different flavors. But going forward? Who knows.

In searching, I did run across a link to a specialty farm growing variety beans. They list stores that they stock, and one is near me (even if a bit pricey). So when conditions permit, I’ll give them a try.


OnkleWillie jun 16, 201209:51 pm
I think that lima beans must be cyclical in availability. A few years back you couldn’t find a lima bean of any type, fresh, frozen or dried, large or small, here in the DFW area for almost two years. The store managers would just shrug their shoulders and walk away when asked about the lack of limas. Of course I noticed that limas rank pretty high on the recent list of Least Favorite Vegetables.

I have always used large limas for cassolet but have recently switched to White Emergo Beans. They cook up about a third larger than large limas and have a great flavor and texture. Somewhat hard to find and they take forever to cook (2 ½ – 3 hours) unless you use a pressure cooker. Zursun Ltd. is the grower.

Then further down another person posted a link to their site:


Which has a listing of stores that carry their products:


The following specialty food stores sell Zürsun Idaho Heirloom Beans.
Please contact us if you would like to buy our beans and cannot find a store near you.
To buy online, please visit
LA Cuisine – The Cook’s Resource
323 Cameron St.
Alexandria, VA 22314
703 836-4435

Followed by a very long list, by State, of stocking stores. One of which is just a mile or two away.

I’ve also gone into my seed fridge and pulled out a jar of Christmas Limas I grew a few years back. Some of them are now soaking, to be planted out when they sprout. These are a very nice large speckled lima. Taste was richer, but similar to other large limas, so I’d not made them a frequent grow when limas were plentiful and cheap in the stores. But things change… BTW, Zursun Beans also carries them.


Christmas Lima
The alluring burgundy mottled, chestnut-flavored Christmas Lima is part of Peru’s heirloom bean lineage. Serve cooked limas as an appetizer, side dish or main course embellished with butter, garlic and fresh parsley.

I think I got my original stock from Seed Savers Exchange:


Christmas Lima Bean
Phaseolus lunatus | SKU: 0607

Lima Bean, Christmas
Historic Variety
$3.25 to $75.00
Pole bean
Seeds grow to the size of a quarter
Bears even during extreme heat
Shelling and dry bean
SELECT SIZE Packet 50 seeds 1 lb 5 lbs 10 lbs

Item Details
Also known as Large Speckled Calico, this variety was first cultivated in the United States around 1840 and produces beautiful, quarter-sized, flat white seeds with maroon spots and swirls. It has rich flavor and can be used as a shell lima or dry. Heavy yields, bears even during extreme heat. Pole habit, 75-100 days. ±360 seeds/lb

Instructions- Lima beans thrive in hot temperatures. Sow seeds outdoors after danger of frost has passed and soil and air temperatures have warmed. Seeds will germinate in 7-18 days. Limas prefer full sun.

Christmas Lima Beans

Christmas Lima Beans

So $3.50 for enough to get growing, or $75 for 10 lbs and a small farm.

They are a bit slow to grow, and being big need poles or fences to climb.

I have also grown Jackson Wonder and will start some of them, too. IIRC, they started to thrive when I watered more. Grown in a pot with afternoon shade, keeping some water in the tray for the pot to wick up helped a lot in my semi-desert summers. Faster at 75 days, and a bush type.


87% of 100 6 Reviews Add Your Review
(lima bean) 75 days. Introduced in 1888 by David Landreth & Sons. Heavy yields of small-to-medium-sized, tan and purple to brown- speckled beans. Pods can also be cooked when young.

Availability: In stock
Minimum Seed Count: 40

Jackson Wonder Lima

Jackson Wonder Lima Beans

In some ways I liked the Jackson wonder more for faster yield and smaller space, but big trellised plants are more fun and often have longer periods of yield.

I’m pretty sure I’ll grow both this year…

What the Marketeers remove from shelves, the self reliant make for themselves. The Lima Bean Resistance marches on! 8-)

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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10 Responses to Oh Beans!

  1. Dan_Kurt says:

    RE: Lima Beans

    My mother of Austrian descent loved lima beans especially to make Lima Bean Soup from the bone from a baked ham. Dad ate anything, being a kid raised during the depression, so he didn’t get any of it as he wouldn’t appreciate it. My sister and I didn’t particularly like the taste of Lima Beans so we never were given a bowl. Mom would make up a batch, a large batch, with celery, carrots, cabbage, and chunks of ham, but NO onions as my mother believed onions would sour the soup. She would freeze portions to keep in our large freezer in the cellar and over the course of a month or so have her lima bean soup as her treat for many a lunch. She made the soup from dried small lima beans. At the end of summer fresh lima beans were turned into succotash by adding fresh corn kernels cut from cobs and cooking them together. Not something I would ask for extra helpings, for sure. I don’t think I have had a lima bean since I left home at age seventeen over 60 years ago.

    Dan Kurt

  2. H.R. says:

    @E.M. – Don’t forget the cattle fence arch. I know you have room for at least one panel and maybe two. If the Subaru is a go, you can fold one loosely in half and haul it home easily.

    I put one cattle panel arch in last year and it was the best thing ever for climbing beans. The main thing about the arch is I didn’t miss any beans “hiding in the bushes” as it were.

    This year, I’m going to do pole beans on one side and cucumbers on the other side. I’m debating whether or not to do one more arch.

    In the video you posted along with your take on the cattle panel topic, they said it was about $32 USD per arch, including T-posts. I think I came in right about there, +/- a dollar or two. It’s worth it, because you don’t get “hiders” that get away from you and are a loss. You can find and monitor all of the crop.

    Also, I don’t see why hydroponically grown veggies wouldn’t work well with a cattle panel arch. I just may buy another panel and give that a try outside of my 8′ x 8′ raised bed garden. Two of my dirt-planted tomato plants last year grew about 7′ tall. Of course they bent over a good bit, but if I grow them hydroponically against the cattle fence arch, I don’t see why I can’t go for 8′ or 9′ foot tall tomato plants.
    Okay. We’re talking lima beans here, but I think the cattle panel would be great for those, particularly if you’re getting big honkin’ quarter-sized beans.

  3. E.M.Smith says:


    Dad was from Iowa. They had pigs on the farm. So we regularly had roast hams. Then the bone and some pan drippings went to “ham & beans”. The kind of bean would vary. Dad was fond of Navy Beans or Great Northern. Sometimes limas. I’ve continued the tradition, though with just 2 of us now, haven’t done a ham in a while. As pintos were often cheaper, I’d use them. Or reds, bkack, whatever was on hand.
    (One definition of “eternity”? – Two people and a whole ham)

    One of my favorite quick snacks / ersatz meals is a can of geen limas (2nd chouce, white butter beans) heated then buttered. Add a slice of buttered bread and it’s a fine meal. Simple. Quick. Easy. “On the road friendly”. Part of why I wanted them for my prepping pile

    Dad liked succotash, and I thought it was fine, but liked each part separately a bit more.

    Bean soups are, IMHO, improved by some limas in the mix.

  4. E.M.Smith says:

    @H.R.: Pole limas can get a few meters long…

    IFF the virus thing gets stopped, I might buy an arch, but for now, I’m just using what I’ve got. I have a patch of bamboo, so pole TeePee style for me. Or my tomato cages and strings to the fence make a nice quasi-arch. When I get a cattle panel, it will ride home on top of a Mercedes wagon roof rack. Bigger than the Subaru.

  5. Gail Combs says:

    Cattle panels are a handy item to have around.

    Actually there are a variety of these heavy duty 16 ft livestock panels.

    Short and closer spaced = Hog panel
    Close space at the bottom = Combo panel
    1/2 the spacing = goat panel.

    If you want a DIY quick building you can put down 2 layers of concrete block and the hoop on top. Or you can get fancy and put hog panels along the side and the hoop on top of that to make a really tall structure/ wide structure. Adding at least 1 to 2 feet at the bottom for the hoop to ‘sit on’ really enlarges the width.

    Another possibility is use landscape bricks instead of concrete blocks for the raised bed and the hoops above that to make a ‘greenhouse’


  6. cdquarles says:

    About any runner type beans: we used to cut canes for them and string them up. Take a walk in the woods and cut the canes. Tie them up with cotton twine. Snap beans, butter beans, and lima beans for the most part were grown. Occasionally we’d grow Great Northern beans. We’d grow peas, too.

  7. p.g.sharrow says:

    Livestock panels are too heavy for me to be moving around the garden. I use concrete re-enforcing panels. 6×6 inch grid, 4×7 foot panels or by the roll. also wrap it into cylinders. works great, is light weight to move, Inexpensive…pg

  8. E.M.Smith says:

    My Christmas Limas have sprouted a little bit of root, so today I planted them into pots. Once fully up, I’ll pot on those into real garden space with supports. As of now, I’ve got about 24 plants started.

    I’ve also planted out some spuds that had sprouted (about 4 from the bottom of an old bag of russets). That was about a week ago, and tops are just poking through the dirt. I’ll hill them up a bit more later.

    A week or two ago I started some other seeds (seed started about 28 Feb, first planted out March 4). The ones that sprouted were planted out, while I’m noting the duds below.


    Bean, Violetto (purple snap) seeded date Sept 2009. Not under refrigeration for a few years.

    Squash, 8 Ball (zucchini but ball shaped) seeded date July 2008. Not refrigerated a few years.

    (The not refrigerated seeds are usually overage when I’ve got too much under cold already, so not like I don’t have dozens of 8 Ball seed packets in the freezer.)

    Probable dud (not rotting but not sprouted):

    Allium Nodding Onion (edible decorative ) I had trouble starting these some time ago, so no surprise. Mostly just testing / tossing the packet. I’ve got Fistulosum growing well in hydroponics, so don’t need these. Commercial packet from 2010 (onion seeds usually only good 1 or 2 years).

    Nearly 100% germination or at 100%:

    Lettuce, Prizehead, American Seed Dec 2010 (refrigerated)
    Radish, Sparkler, American Select Dec 2011 (refrigerated)
    Beet, Chioggia, Botanical Interests, Dec 2014 (not refrigerated much)
    Peas, Lincoln, Ferry-Morse, Dec 2011 (refrigerated)

    As I already have a lot of dry beans, and a lot of canned green beans, I don’t really need more; but I’ll likely sprout / test some more old packets. I do want some summer squash, so will get a better packet of 8 Ball and start some of them. A test of Lutz Perpetual Spinach Beet last year had 3 of them overwinter. I’ll likely start the rest of that packet. It is like very small chard.

    After that, a breather to assess and prep more dirt. But at least in a couple of months, some fresh veggies to go with the beans and rice…

  9. E.M.Smith says:

    I started a new batch of seeds when I made my lasr comment on March 12 th.

    The 8 Ball has two seeds sprouted a root, after a few more I’ll pot them on.

    After only 5 days, some Kentucky Wonder seeds molded. Dated Oct. 2010, so a decade old.

    A packet, undated but from the same era, had all of the Jackson’s Wonder sprouted already. I just planted them out (into a pot where something pulled up the baby pea plants and ate just the seed part). Hopefully the cyanogens in the limas will not taste as good…

  10. H.R. says:

    I’m champing at the bit to start my seeds.

    We had a very mild Winter here at home while we were in Florida. Now we’re still having a vey mild Winter instead of Spring. Heck! If this keeps up, we’ll be having a mild Winter this Summer ;o)

    I’ll probably have to wait until the beginning of or even mid-April to start my seeds, which is about 2 weeks later than last year.
    @Gail – I liked the link to that cattle panel greenhouse. It’s pushing me to add one more cattle panel. Then, instead of using it as a permanent greenhouse, I’ll use the arched area as a temporary “cold frame” by covering it with cheap contractor’s plastic. I’ll remove and toss the plastic after all danger of frost has passed, and then start the climbing plants up the cattle panel. The stand-alone plants like squash can be moved out to their spots in the open bed.

    I’m guessing that one roll of plastic, at about $40+/- would last 3 to 4, maybe 5 years, so roughly $10/year. I don’t have a place for a separate cold frame, so that’s a reasonable cost just to have one each year.

    Thanks for that link.

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