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Dry large lima beans - going the way of the dodo?

I cook these to make a fauxtato salad that is virtually indistinguishable from traditional potato salad, in both taste and appearance. I also use them with lamb shanks in a soup that was in my mother's
standard repertoire. I hadn't bought them since last year. Recently, I shopped at 4 supermarkets before finding them. No space or labels on the shelves for them. All had small dried limas (same white color), but if they are analogous to the green lima beans in the freezer section, they have a completely different taste. Large dried limas are what are called butter beans when sold cooked and canned. The confusion is because lima is a generic term for beans.

I live in Boston's western suburbs. Is anyone else noticing a shortage of large dry lima beans?

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  1. I don't live in your area (Phila suburbs) but I have found these beans in the ethnic sections of local markets, usually with Hispanic/Latino foods. I make these the way Grandma used to, just baked like regular baked beans but the family prefers the large limas. I'm not sure how they are labeled, I think my most recent purchase was Jack Rabbit brand (Goya may also package these) and they may have been marked "large lima beans". Hope this helps!

    1. I think they also go by the term "white lima." I'll have to look next trip to the store to see what brands I might find.

      1. I see dried butter beans in my markets north of Boston, as recently as last week. Often, they are with the Latin food section, not in the Anglo bean section....

        9 Replies
        1. re: Karl S

          Just saw some today in my crappy Shaw's here in Melrose....

          1. re: Karl S

            Why segregate beans into "Latin" or "Anglo" or whatever food sections? Foods, especially basic ingredients such as beans, should just be sold by their genre (if that's the right word): beans with beans, fruits with fruits, nuts with nuts, sauces with sauces, etc... When I visit the States, I find it a little confusing sometimes to find an ingredient in the "Italian-type-foods" aisle and another in the "Mexican aisle", for example. They should just be shelved by type.

            1. re: Wawsanham

              you didn't learn the American supermarket's version of the Dewey decimal system: it's actually designed to force you to search longer, not make it more efficient for you.

              1. re: Karl S

                Karl, this plus rearranging the displays all the time, seems to be about raising the probability that while wandering around searching for something we will commit Impulse Buying. And they're probably right.

                1. re: Querencia

                  LOL, I surely wish I could commit Impulse Buying in the supermarket chains. No more wandering up and down the aisles, I know exactly what's there. I hardly bother anymore with asking the manager if they'll ever get it -- here's an (paraphrasing) I've been given by two managers(one chain), "we only have what 'they' send us." I have asked them after not seeing one item for months on the shelf I normally buy ask them why they are not carrying it anymore, I will have to get full information for them to order it. Lucky me, that I scan some things into the computer that I buy. All this, just to get one particular item. Hardly worth my time, but sometimes necessary.

                  An adage that seems to hold true most of the time, though, is 'if you don't see it, we don't got it.' Though some will knock themselves out running through the aisles looking for it - my thought is, look at the computer to see if you do carry it.

                  I've tried to find out if there is a computer program to specific chains what they carry, certainly this should be an easy task for them, as they computer order everything they sell, but I know two chains that have mentioned that there is a program, but what I've found is so minimal as to be totally worthless.
                  It would probably cut out some of that Impulse Buying looking for 'stuff.'

              2. re: Wawsanham

                After I've looked-and-looked-and-looked, I will go to the customer service, and there's what I get:
                "Did you look in the dried bean aisle? Yes
                Did you look in the Mexican aisle? Yes.
                Did you look in the International aisle? Yes
                Did you look in the Organic aisle? Yes.
                Did you look in the canned section along with the other canned beans? Yes"

                Well, then, if you don't see it, we don't got it!

                I don't know why I bother, it's pretty difficult, if not impossible to get anyone but the manager to really look and see if they do have a certain product, which entails me following him/her up and down all the possible aisles.
                Sooo time consuming.

                1. re: Wawsanham

                  It strikes me as an eastern thing - at least that's where I notice it. After staring at an aisle of various kinds of rice looking in vain for brown rice I asked an employee where it was: he explained that these were all the ethic rices, like I was visiting from Mars. My local California supermarket keeps all the rice, beans, pastas and related together.

                  1. re: tardigrade

                    It makes total sense to keep basic items such as rice, vegetables, canned goods, noodles, breads, etc... together--not dividing them up by (perceived) ethnicity. What's with the food apartheid? Maybe that could be another thread.

                    1. re: Wawsanham

                      Even in big giant stores that sell food from different nations, they will divide some foods into areas. That could make sense for those who shop strictly from their own cuisine vs. running all over the store.

                      I do notice that all produce is actually IN the produce area, there you will see people from all over the world. This is always a wonderful place for me to shop and ask 'how do you prepare this?" from the shoppers themselves.

                      However, in one store that I shop where they carry many nations' bags of rice, they do stack them up in one place; however, not the beans :-))

              3. I see them often...buy on occasion. ~~ Like them with Andouille and Cornbread......

                1. As mentioned in my OP, I DID find them eventually, but 4 stores that always carried them in the past have apparently discontinued them. I've got the soup cooking now, looking forward to it
                  since it's nostalgia for me. I bought a bag of the small ones that I will sample cooked in water only, just to check whether or not they taste like the large ones.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: greygarious

                    Personally, I find they are rather different. The small dried limas are also very different from frozen; unless they are very old, they can have a delightful silken quality once cooked properly - I much prefer them to the frozen alternative. The big dried butter beans, I have to admit, I prefer the canned ones best, which is odd for me, but I find they are more consistent in canned than dried form (it may just be that the big dried ones in the bag don't move as fast as other dried beans around here). My favorite dried bean for general purposes is a yellow-eye (or Steuben yellow-eye) type bean (even better, but generally only available from mail order, are the darker versions, sometimes called molasses face or molasses eye): this type of bean has thin skin, and a delightful flavor and texture. By far the best bean for baked beans, though I did have some success using the huge Spanish judion beans once, which are the caviar of the big fat white bean category....

                    1. re: Karl S

                      I have never tried the dried large limas, but think I might; and I'd love to try the judions if I can find them. I, too, love the canned butter beans, but hubby doesn't, so I eat them when it's just me at home. I like them with non-marinated canned artichoke hearts and non-pickled canned beets (although I think I'd like the pickled ones in this, I just don't keep them on hand). I top with a good EVOO and balsamic. For extra kick I use Roland brand hot pepper balsamic sauce. I LOVE it, but every local store that carried it in MA and ME no longer does and I have to order it online by the small case.

                  2. I'm not in the Boston area either (but I grew up in Little Rhody!). Here in Mexico they are called 'haba pelada', or 'peeled lima', so if you end up having to scour the ethnic markets you'll know what to ask/look for.

                    I'm new to them so any favorite recipe share would be very appreciated!


                    1 Reply
                    1. re: dulce lover

                      My granny made butter beans with cauliflower, using canned beans, as a side dish. No recipe--just throw it together

                    2. I saw reference to your post, greygarious, reading the newsletter. Thanks for the suggestion of using them as the potato in 'potato salad.' This sound so good to me, as I love potato salad, but I no longer eat potatoes.

                      However, since I don't eat bottled salad dressing nor jarred mayonnaise, can you suggest a dressing recipe that might compliment this fauxtato? Something on the order of a vinaigrette - I'm not sure what.

                      I did note that Bob's Red Mills has the large beans for sale on Amazon.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Rella

                        I'm also excited to try the fauxtato salad, but instead of mayo plan to use a tzatziki sauce that I saw, coincidentally, in a recipe this morning for tzatziki potato salad. Don't you love when beautiful things collide?

                      2. We split some great recipe discussion to Home Cooking so more home cooks would see it: http://www.chow.com/topics/850873

                        1. Would you mind sharing your "faux"tato salad recipe? I'm curious to try your version!

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: moxsa

                            Spouse picked up "large" limas yesterday, but I think they are still too small. He said another brand was larger, but didn't get it for some reason. Darn - another trip before I can make this.

                            1. re: Rella

                              Short story: DH had taken pics of the other beans; forgot that he had. I have attached a pic of the item that I finally bought.

                              It actually says "Butterbeans" whereas the other package said "Large Lima."

                            2. re: moxsa

                              Like most of the things I cook - and virtually all of the original concoctions I've come up with - I don't have a recipe. The cooked large limas look and taste like potato, so you can use whatever other ingredients and dressing you normally like for potato salad. You want to cook the beans till at least half have split their skins, which gives them a texture akin to chopped cooked potato, and also allows the seasonings to permeate the beans' interior.

                            3. Rancho Gordo has two kinds of large limas - white limas and Christmas (i.e., multicolored) ones. They're based in the San Francisco area, but they do mail order.

                              I wonder if they're scarce because they're hard to grow: I've had horrendous luck getting seed beans to do anything but rot in the soil. I've tried butter beans and supposedly good old reliable Fordhook limas with no luck.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: tardigrade

                                Most beans need fairly warm soil to germinate. Lima beans in particular need warmth. In northern Illinois snap beans can be planted in mid-May while lima beans need to wait until early June.

                              2. Does anyone know if these large limas or butter beans are the same as Greek "giant beans" (gigantes)? Or are they at least a good substitute?

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: Rich102

                                  I've seen gigantes beans in glass jars but have never eaten them. They are a good bit larger than large lima/butter beans, but otherwise look the same. Try out a can/jar of butter beans - they won't break the bank.

                                  1. re: greygarious

                                    Gigantes are a fairly standard Greek meze, and vary widely in style and quality. But done well, they're a nice appetizer, along with a bunch of other stuff.

                                    A year or two ago I was looking at this question and found some information that let me to believe that limas and butter beans were two different varieties, or maybe even two different species, of whatever genus they're in. I couldn't tell from what I read whether butter beans and gigantes were really different or not. I do need to try some canned butter beans and see how they compare. Currently there are a couple of places in the northwest suburbs of Chicago where I can get dry gigantes, but they're not cheap. (And I don't have a great recipe for preparing them.) At Fresh Farms in Wheeling, I can get dry, canned or deli versions, but I haven't been impressed with the prepared versions, and they're pricey also.

                                    But you're right-- a can of butter beans won't break the bank. Time to start checking the bean aisle when I'm shopping.

                                    1. re: Rich102

                                      You might get lucky, if you're in Wheeling, (WV?). As I recall, these were a favorite of grandmas, and grandmas favor the smallist of cans (more per oz. though).

                                      However, as I write this, I'm wondering if they are making those small cans - you know, they had carrots in them, etc.

                                      Me - I've not bought food in cans for years, so I'm a fine one to say; however, it's worth a try.

                                      1. re: Rella

                                        Rich is in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Wheeling, Illinois, is a northwest suburb.

                                2. I think that lima beans must be cyclical in availability. A few years back you couldn’t find a lima bean of any type, fresh, frozen or dried, large or small, here in the DFW area for almost two years. The store managers would just shrug their shoulders and walk away when asked about the lack of limas. Of course I noticed that limas rank pretty high on the recent list of Least Favorite Vegetables.

                                  I have always used large limas for cassolet but have recently switched to White Emergo Beans. They cook up about a third larger than large limas and have a great flavor and texture. Somewhat hard to find and they take forever to cook (2 ½ - 3 hours) unless you use a pressure cooker. Zursun Ltd. is the grower.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: OnkleWillie


                                    I'd never heard the name. Thank you. There's a picture on their site.

                                    1. re: OnkleWillie

                                      Earlier this week I went by my local source for White Emergo Beans and was hit with a real case of sticker shock. The one pound bags I had been buying at $3.50 for a couple of years had been replaced by 20 oz bags for only $8.95. In both cases the vendor was Zursun. An hour’s searching on the web located some White Emergos at about $4.50/lb from other sources but postage jacked the price up over $6.00 a pound for five pound lots.

                                      Another search suggested Giant Lima Beans and/or Gigantes as alternatives and said to look for them at Greek or Middle Eastern markets.. I don’t know the original source for the Giant Limas but the Gigantes appear to be common in Greece and Eastern Europe.

                                      I checked my local Middle Eastern/Indian market this morning and found both types. Giant Lima Beans for $2.75 from Ziyad (www.ziyad.com) in Cicero, IL and the Gigantes for $3.40 from 3ALFA (www.3alfa.gr), distributed by Fantis Foods (www.fantisfoods.com). Both look great and a good percentage of the beans in the bags are over one inch long. Truly large beans. I don’t know where the two types of beans fit on the family tree compared to the White Emergo Beans. The Gigantes appear to be thicker and a bit larger than the Giant Limas. I’ll pick one of them make my cassolet next week.

                                    2. The Persian stores I shop at always have them.

                                      1. I ran into the same thing in Berkshire COunty when looking for them to use up the Ham bone from Easter.
                                        What gives? Why the drop of something that is sooooo good?