Suppression

Butter beans

Category: Food

Type

Voluntary

Introduction and description

 

 Phaseolus lunatus is a legume or bean. 

It is commonly known as the butter bean or lima bean.  Butter beans are used throughout the world and are eaten and used by millions of people daily for both their nutritional content and their medicinal value.

Kew gardens
Phaseolus lunatus is also known as butter bean on account of its creamy taste, lima bean adds flavour, protein and important minerals such as manganese and iron, to a wide variety of dishes. It is also highly valued for its medicinal properties.

carrot and butter bean soup

From the Kew Gardens website:  Species information

Scientific name

Phaseolus lunatus L.

Common name

lima bean, butter bean

Conservation status: 

Widespread in cultivation.

Habitat: 

Lima bean can be grown in a wide range of ecological conditions but is particularly suited to low-altitude humid and sub-humid climates,as well as warm temperate zones and arid and semi-arid tropical regions.

Key Uses

Food, fodder, medicine, cover crop.

Known hazards

Lima beans contain high levels of a cyanide compound and should not be eaten raw. The toxic cyanide compound is deactivated upon cooking.

 

Description

Phaseolus lunatus can either be an annual or a perennial. Some forms of the species are erect with trailing branches while others are climbing vines up to four and half metres long (occasionally up to 8 metres). 

The roots can extend 2 metres into the soil and are either thin or swollen. 

The leaves are arranged alternately along the main stems and each leaf is composed of three leaflets, with the terminal leaflet held away from the two opposite lateral leaflets. The leaf stalk can be from 1.5 to 19 cm long. The flowers are white, pale green or rose-violet and pea-flowered.

The fruit is an oblong pod, 5-13 cm long and bears up to 5 seeds. The seeds are kidney-shaped to subglobose (almost spherical), up to 11 mm long, white, green, yellow, brown, red, purple, black or variously speckled. 

Background

 

Lima beans originated in the Neotropics and have two main centres of domestication.

The small-seeded varieties were developed in Central America and the large-seeded types were cultivated in South America (mainly in Peru) as far back as 6,000 BC.

Following Columbus’ 'discovery' of America, humans spread lima beans throughout the continent and they were subsequently introduced into Europe and Asia.

Portuguese 'explorers' brought butter beans to Africa during the slave trade. Today lima beans are cultivated throughout the tropics.

The Millennium Seed Bank and the Global Crop Diversity Trust are engaged in a ten-year project, called 'Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change'. The project aims to protect, collect and prepare the wild relatives of 29 key food crops so that they are available to pre-breeders for the development of new varieties that are more resilient to the effects of climate change.  And one of the key crops chosen for this project is the butter bean.

 

One of the reasons that the butter bean is part of important initiatives like those above, is because it provides a natural fertiliser for soil, avoiding the use of petroleum based products which require intensive processing and refining. 

The ability of lima bean to fix nitrogen from the air by way of bacteria housed in root nodules makes it a good soil fertiliser. For this reason it is often grown as a cover crop and for green manure.

Pressed and dried specimens of Phaseolus lunatus are held in Kew Garden's Herbarium, where they are available to researchers by appointment.

Details and images of some of these specimens can be seen online in Kew's Herbarium Catalogue.

Medicinal uses and nutrients

The plant has many medicinal uses. In Senegal and the Democratic republic of Congo the juice from the leaves is used in nasal instillations against headache and as eardrops. In Nigeria the seeds are pulverised and rubbed into small cuts or onto tumours and abscesses to encourage the discharge of pus. The seeds and leaves of butter bean are valued in traditional Asian medicine for their astringent properties and they are used as a diet to relieve fever.

Other medicinal uses will be found in the observations.

USDA Nutrients database - Full Report (All Nutrients):  11032, Lima beans, immature seeds, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt


Nutrient

Unit

Value per 100g

Water

g

67.17

Energy

kcal

123

Energy

kJ

515

Protein

g

6.81

Total lipid (fat)

g

0.32

Ash

g

2.06

Carbohydrate, by difference

g

23.64

Fiber, total dietary

g

5.3

Sugars, total

g

1.63

MINERALS

 

 

Calcium, Ca

mg

32

Iron, Fe

mg

2.45

Magnesium, Mg

mg

74

Phosphorus, P

mg

130

Potassium, K

mg

570

Sodium, Na

mg

17

Zinc, Zn

mg

0.79

Copper, Cu

mg

0.305

Manganese, Mn

mg

1.252

Selenium, Se

µg

2.0

VITAMINS

 

 

Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid

mg

10.1

Thiamin

mg

0.140

Riboflavin

mg

0.096

Niacin

mg

1.040

Pantothenic acid

mg

0.257

Vitamin B-6

mg

0.193

Folate, total

µg

26

Folic acid

µg

0

Folate, food

µg

26

Folate, DFE

µg

26

Choline, total

mg

44.1

Vitamin B-12

µg

0.00

Vitamin B-12, added

µg

0.00

Vitamin A, RAE

µg

15

Retinol

µg

0

Carotene, beta

µg

182

Carotene, alpha

µg

0

Cryptoxanthin, beta

µg

0

Vitamin A, IU

IU

303

Lycopene

µg

0

Lutein + zeaxanthin

µg

0

Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)

mg

0.14

Vitamin E, added

mg

0.00

Vitamin D (D2 + D3)

µg

0.0

Vitamin D

IU

0

Vitamin K (phylloquinone)

µg

6.2

FATTY ACIDS

 

 

Fatty acids, total saturated

g

0.073

Fatty acids, total monounsaturated

g

0.019

Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated

g

0.154

Alcohol, ethyl

g

0.0

Caffeine

mg

0

Theobromine

mg

0

AMINO ACIDS

 

 

Tryptophan

g

0.089

Threonine

g

0.289

Isoleucine

g

0.438

Leucine

g

0.535

Lysine

g

0.450

Methionine

g

0.068

Cystine

g

0.083

Phenylalanine

g

0.336

Tyrosine

g

0.219

Valine

g

0.425

Arginine

g

0.456

Histidine

g

0.231

Alanine

g

0.258

Aspartic acid

g

0.731

Glutamic acid

g

0.877

Glycine

g

0.273

Proline

g

0.101

Serine

g

0.425

Method

Leek, butter bean & chorizo gratin

Butter beans are an extraordinarily versatile vegetable.

They can be added, pre-cooked, to stews.  They can be pureed and used in soups as a thickener.

Again pre-cooked they can be made into salads or in dishes like the one shown to the right.

The Italians, French and Spanish supply bottled butter beans that are cooked in water with no added preservatives, as such the cooking of the beans can be entirely avoided without the worry of toxins, and in the more reputable brands the beans are no different from the way you would have cooked them at home. 

not an advertisement, an example of bottled beans

The bottles of beans are better in many ways because you can then see they are 'the pukka thing' as Jamie Oliver might have said.  If you can see white, plump beans in a creamy glutinous looking water base, and the bottle ingredients simply says water and beans with no preservatives added, then you know you are onto a good thing.

In Africa, lima beans are eaten with maize [sweetcorn] rice or yams and may be seasoned with spices – a very filling and staple dish. Some indigenous peoples, such as the Yoruba, process the seeds into porridge, puddings and cakes. The green, immature seeds, pods and leaves are eaten as a vegetable in Ghana and Malawi. In many Asian countries the shoots and young plants are cooked and eaten.

 

In India, they form the base of some extremely good vegetarian curries using yoghurt for example and coconut milk and flesh. 

Butter beans go well with tomatoes and there are numerous recipes combining butter beans with tomatoes, onions, olives and herbs such as marjoram or oregano.

The following recipe uses onions and tomatoes but also adds in chicken to make a substantial main meal.

 Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil

6 chicken legs

200g pancetta - cubed

4 red onions, peeled and cut into wedges

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 rosemary sprigs, leaves finely chopped, plus one extra whole sprig

250g red wine

250g chicken stock

800g cherry tomatoes

1 large bottle of butter beans

2 tbsp honey

1 bay leaf

 

Method

Heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Heat the oil in a large roasting tin, then brown the chicken legs in batches. Remove from the tin and set aside.

Sizzle the pancetta cubes in the same tin. Remove with slotted spoon when just crisp.

Add the onion and  garlic. Fry for a few mins, stirring.
Pour in the wine and stock. Simmer for 10 mins until the onion wedges are starting to soften.
Add the cherry tomatoes, beans, honey, bay leaf, rosemary and seasoning. Give everything a good stir, then bring back to a simmer.

Sit the chicken legs on top of the bean mixture and pour over any extra juices from the chicken.
Bake in oven until the chicken is cooked.

 

Related observations