One of the oldest beans to come out of the New World, lima beans, also known as butter beans, have a buttery, almost meaty texture with a plump, kidney-like shape. The beans, named after Lima, Peru, where they originated from, are generally in season through the fall months, until the first frosts hit.
If you can get your hands on a supply of fresh lima beans, then you might want to consider storing some for later, perhaps for a succotash or casserole for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or later in the winter.
Shell and Sort
Usually, 4 pounds of unshelled raw lima beans will yield approximately 2 pints of frozen beans, so plan accordingly.
Next, rinse the lima beans in plain cold or lukewarm water. You can shell the bean by popping the pod open with your thumb and sliding the beans out. Then, you can sort the lima beans into groups of small, medium, and large beans. This is an important step since the cooking time on a small lima bean varies greatly from a large lima bean.
Enzymes, a necessary component for the digestion of nutrients, also are the reason vegetables lose color and flavor, even when they are frozen. To stop the enzymatic process, vegetables should be blanched.
To blanch, or parboil, the lima beans, you will need to fill a large kettle with 1 gallon of water and bring it to a brisk boil. Blanch no more than 1 pound of lima beans per 1 gallon of water at a time. Place them in a basket, strainer, or cheesecloth and submerge them in the boiling water.
Cover the pot and boil. Cooking times vary depending on the size of the bean. Small lima beans need 2 minutes, medium beans need 3 minutes, and large beans need 4 minutes. Remove quickly, submerge the beans in a large bowl or deep pot of ice water to cool quickly and stop the cooking.
Once the vegetables are thoroughly chilled, remove, drain, and pat dry.
Keep the beans chilled in the refrigerator if you plan to use them within a couple days.
Pack and Freeze
You can pack the chilled vegetables in the container you refrigerated them in after blanching, or a better option is to quick freeze or dry pack the beans. These methods can help prevent clumping and make it easier to use small amounts from containers.
Arrange the blanched and chilled lima beans on a parchment-lined baking sheet or tray in a single layer. Freeze at -20 F or as low as your freezer will allow. Once frozen, pack in freezer containers or bags leaving 1 inch of headspace.
Lima beans can be kept frozen up to nine months in a zip-top plastic bag in an ordinary freezer, and up to 14 months in a vacuum-packed bag in a deep freezer.
Cooking From Frozen
In general, it is best to use as little water as possible and cook the vegetables until done to your satisfaction. It is not necessary to thaw frozen vegetables first.
As a rule of thumb, you can use 1 cup of water for every 2 cups of lima beans. Depending on the quantity you plan to cook, consider cooking large lima beans for 3 to 10 minutes. Smaller beans will take less time.
Lima Bean Recipes
Succotash, usually a lima bean and corn side dish, is probably the most common preparation of lima beans on most American tables.