Lima beans — A treat worth looking for

Pennsylvania lima beans are now in season. While relatively few lima beans are grown in the state – only a total of 23 acres – fresh Pennsylvania lima beans are a treat worth looking for at your local farmers’ market or roadside farm market. Frozen or canned lima beans are delicious and nutritious as well, but the fresh ones have a distinctive flavor.

According to the Wellness Encyclopedia of Food and Nutrition (University of California at Berkeley), lima beans are named after Lima, Peru, where they have been cultivated for thousands of years.

There are two common types of limas grown in the United States the larger Fordhook or butter bean varieties and the baby lima varieties. Baby limas are a smaller and milder-tasting variety of lima beans, not simply young lima beans.

Limas are available fresh from late summer through early fall. If purchased in the pod, the pods should be tightly closed and budging. If the limas are already shelled, they should be plump and tight-skinned. For the best flavor, the shelled beans should be pale or grass green. Beans that are chalky white will have a starchy flavor similar to dried limas.

Following are three lima bean recipes entered in the 2013 Pennsylvania Vegetable Recipe Contest.

The best tasting lima bean salad you’ll ever have

Serves 4

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup olive oil

1 package (10 ounces) frozen baby lima beans (or 10 ounces fresh baby lima beans)

2 ounces Prosciutto, sliced thin and cut in 1/2-inch pieces

1 small red onion, chopped finely

1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)

1 cup chopped arugula leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

In a serving bowl, whisk together the mustard, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Add the oil in a slow stream, whisking until combined. In a saucepan of boiling water, boil the lima beans for 2 minutes (or about 3 to 4 minutes for fresh beans). Drain well. While still warm, toss the beans with the dressing, Prosciutto, onion, tarragon, arugula and salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

– Submitted by Joan Sarisky of Danville.

Artichoke hearts and lima beans in tomatoes

Serves 4

1/2 cup homemade vegetable stock

1/2 cup pearl barley – rinsed

1 cup frozen chopped onions and peppers

1 package (9 ounces) frozen artichoke hearts

1 bag (16 ounces) frozen lima beans (or 16 ounces fresh lima beans)

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

2 tablespoons celery flakes

1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil

1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

1 can (14 ounces) fire roasted diced tomatoes

Place all ingredients in the pressure cooker. No need to thaw frozen vegetables. Bring pressure cooker to medium pressure, cook for 4 minutes. Take the pressure cooker off the hot burner and allow to set for 10 minutes, quick release if needed. Stir and allow to rest for about 5 minutes for flavors to meld. Serve over cooked whole grains or with whole grain bread.

– Submitted by BJ Reed and Tom Sabo of Chambersburg.

Lima beans with ham

Serves 4

1/2 pound ham

2 tablespoons chopped onion

2 cups water

1 packet chicken bouillon (such as Herb Ox)

1 large potato – chopped

2 cups lima beans – fresh or frozen

1 tablespoon cornstarch

If using frozen beans, defrost them. Cut the ham into 8 pieces. Brown it lightly in the pot you will be using to prepare the dish. Add the onion. Saute another minute. Add water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Add bouillon and potato. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add the beans. Cook another 15 minutes. Dissolve cornstarch in equal amount of water then add to pot. Stir well. Reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes.

– Submitted by Vicky Sokoloff of Fleetwood.

Quick buying tips for fresh Pennsylvania lima beans

The Pennsylvania Vegetable Marketing and Research Program offers these tips when buying fresh lima beans:

Select pods that are tightly closed with budging beans inside.

Shelled beans should be pale or grass green, not chalky white; plump and tight-skinned.

Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator and use within two or three days.