It’s funny how memories of our loved ones are often linked with food. I fondly remember my grandmother making the best fried chicken, but I also remember her always dishing up my least favorite dish: lima beans. It’s true. I wasn’t a lima bean lover. However, I’ve learned that they are actually delicious when prepared in different ways.

Lima beans get their name from Lima, Peru, where they originated as early as 1500. In the south and the U.K., it may be rare to find lima beans on the menu; rather, in this region, they are referred to as “butter beans.” What’s the difference? Nothing, other than the name. Lima beans come in different sizes and two main varieties: baby lima and the Fordhook. Both are pale green and kidney-shaped, but Fordhooks are slightly larger and a bit starchier, but fuller flavored.

If boring and bland is what you remember about this bean, try purchasing them in a different form. Lima beans may be sold fresh in their pod. To store, refrigerate in a plastic bag for up to one week and shell just before using. They may also be purchased dried, in which they will need to be soaked overnight and simmered 40-60 minutes. Frozen and canned beans are also available for quick preparation.

Lima beans are packed with good nutrients. One cup has just 100 calories, but five grams protein and six grams fiber. If the basic butter bean recipe below doesn’t tickle your fancy, try them in a mixed dish like a succotash with fresh corn, tomatoes and onion. Lima beans can add flavor to any vegetable soup and they can be roasted in the oven until they are almost crunchy. Give lima beans a second chance. I did, and now I’m hooked!

Basic Butter Beans

2 pounds baby lima beans, fresh in the shell, or one 10-ounce package, frozen

2 cups water

½ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoon butter

¼ teaspoon black pepper

If using fresh lima beans, shell the beans and wash thoroughly. Pour water and salt in a medium saucepan; add the beans. Cook the beans until tender, about 30 minutes; drain. (If using frozen beans, skip this step and cook according to package directions.) Stir in butter and pepper. Sprinkle lightly with salt if necessary.

Yield: 6 servings

Nutrition facts (per serving): 110 calories, 4.5 grams fat, 200 milligrams sodium, 13 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 5 grams protein

Smith, a registered dietitian, is a nutrition and wellness educator for the University of Illinois Extension, McLean County. Contact her at 309-663-8306.

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