Blog Post

Christmas Lima Beans

Nov. 27, 2007

by Sara Roahen, member of the SFUSA Ark-Presidia Committee

lima beans

The row of Christmas lima beans on a shelf at my local Whole Foods Market in Philadelphia disappears more rapidly than those of the Gourmet Valley’s other heirloom beans. After cooking with them recently for the first time, I know why. I had an oversupply of country ham, and so for my inaugural batch I substituted the maroon-and white mottled limas for butter beans, using a recipe from The Gift of Southern Cooking: Recipes and Revelations From Two Great American Cooks by the late Edna Lewis and the Atlanta chef Scott Peacock. Cooked and drained limas reheated with a cup of heavy cream, minced country ham, snipped chives, butter, and black pepper—the beans' characteristic chestnut flavor and starchy texture held up to the richness of cream and the salt-and-earth of country ham. The flavors were bold, distinct and autumnal. No one at my table believed that the recipe was so simple.

Then I called Steve Sando, the owner and heirloom bean grower at Rancho Gordo in Northern California, who advised me not to drain the beans of their cooking liquid next time. “Bean geeks call that the pot liquor.” He offered an alternate, even simpler, recipe: add wild mushrooms and “tons of garlic” to the Christmas limas and their liquor. “It’s like free soup,” he said.

To order Christmas limas and other heirloom beans, and to learn how to cook them, visit Read more about the Christmas lima bean on Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste.

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