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January 14, 2009

Lima Beans

While cleaning out Dad's pantry, I came across this:

It might not mean anything to you, but it brought a big smile to both my brother's and my faces. This bag of lima beans was harvested - gleaned, actually - in 1967, the year we moved into this house in California.

Our yard was part of a walnut grove before our home was built - we even had a mature walnut tree in the backyard. Beyond our fence was a field of lima beans. Shortly after we moved in, the picking machines harvested the field, but machines are inefficient and lots of beans were spit out the back of the combines. Our family spent several evenings out in the field picking up dried beans. If I remember correctly, we gleaned over 30 pounds of beans.

They are butter beans, big and hearty. Mom would simmer them all day with ham hocks and serve the best-tasting beans and broth I've ever tasted. I've never liked green limas, but these were delicious, nothing like those little insipid green things that taste a bit like paste to me.

The following year, the field wasn't planted and instead the community center complex sprouted and grew. That's progress for you. Take paradise, and put up a parking lot.

A few years ago I bought some dried butter beans and served them up to my family. My dear husband loved them. I made them for a church potluck and served them to my church family, who also loved them. We moved and I was unable to find them in the stores in our new location, and that was the last time I thought about them until I opened Dad's pantry door.

I am sorely tempted to take a handful of these old beans home with me and try to grow them, but they are over 40 years old! I could try sprouting them here though to see if any will germinate, and decide in a few days if it's worth trying to grow them in my Oklahoma garden. If these are unsuccessful, I will find some seeds to buy, because now I need to eat some butter beans. ~smile~

Here is a similar recipe to Mom's for butter beans, from Hillbilly Housewife. Mom however added ham hocks to the pot and simmered both till the beans were soft but not mushy. I don't remember if she added butter/margarine or not. What a simple, superb supper!


1 pound dry lima beans
2 quarts tap water
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup of margarine (1/2 a stick)

Soak the beans overnight in the tap water, or bring them to a boil, cover them and let them soak for an hour in the boiling water. After soaking, simmer the beans for about an hour, or until they are almost tender. Add the salt, pepper and margarine. Simmer the beans for another half hour or so, cooking until they are tender, but not mushy, and the broth is somewhat thickened.

Here is one method for testing for germination, from The Master Gardeners site.

To begin testing for germination, spread a paper towel on a water proof surface and wet down with warm water, using a spray bottle or some similar spraying device. Don’t make the towel too wet. If water beads up around your fingertip when you press on the towel, it is too wet.

As few as ten seeds are usually sufficient to accurately test for germination, although you can use more if you have them. Evenly space the seeds on the paper towel keeping them about two inches from the edges. Carefully roll or fold them up in the towel so they are encased in a long, narrow strip of wet paper and slip the whole thing into the zip lock bag. Seal the bag and mark it carefully, especially if more than one kind of seed or variety is being tested at the same time.

Place the bag in a warm spot. The most rapid seed germination occurs when temperatures remain consistently between 70 and 80 degrees. Suitable places for seed germination in the average home include the top of a hot-water heater or refrigerator, near a wood stove or on a high shelf near a hot-air vent. Make sure the paper towel inside the plastic bag remains damp during the entire testing period, moistening it if it shows signs of drying out.

Make the first germination check after two or three days. Keep checking at regular intervals to note the rate of seed germination. Most viable seeds will germinate within two to three weeks, and some will sprout much sooner.


  1. Anonymous5:56 PM

    Remember the Pyramids! Some of those seeds sprouted! :) I loved your story. My Mom & dh love them. I don't. We can buy the dried ones here.

  2. Anonymous11:01 PM

    I have enjoyed reading your blog. I too am a homebody.I am so sorry about your dad. We are waiting for my FIL to pass away at any monment.I so understand the diffcult time you have been through.
    Hugs and Prayers,


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