Butterbeans vs. Lima Beans
Everybody Likes Butterbeans….
Butterbeans are one of my favorite things to eat on this Earth. Yes – that includes fine Belgian chocolates, French delicacies, other Southern classics like fried chicken with rice and gravy or Georgia peaches picked fresh from the tree. When I am feeling down in the dumps, sick, or homesick, I cook a pot of butterbeans.
My family always planted a large garden. In the evenings during the summer, we’d sit on the screened-in porch shelling the butterbeans or field peas that Dede had picked early that morning. Meme would put them on the stove with a hunk of fatback and chopped Vidalia onion. They’d simmer slowly until creamy and tender, bathed in an opaque salty, smoky broth. Once they were tender, my grandmother would ladle a spoonful of rice into a pale blue shallow bowl, then top it with a heaping mound of butterbeans and steaming broth. At some point the rim of the bowl was chipped, but that precious butterbean bowl now rests aside my finest china and crystal in the china cabinet.
Butterbeans Cause Dancing
I’m not the only Southerner that loves butterbeans. The fantastic 80’s dance band, The B-52s from Athens, Ga actually created a song about butterbeans! Kate and Cyndi sing, “Pick em, hull em, put on to steam, that’s how we like butterbeans!” Later in the song Fred implores, “Show me the person who doesn’t like butterbeans?” Yes, this is for real. Southerners take butterbeans very seriously. Check it out.
Why do Beans Cause Gas?
And, well, they cause more than dancing. You may recall the catchy phrase: “Beans, beans are good for the heart … the more you eat, the more you … ” Yep, it’s true. The natural sweetness of butterbeans comes from a group of sugars called oligosaccharides. These complex sugars are not digested until they reach the large intestine where they are introduced to hundreds of bacteria that live in your lower gut. Things get windy because we are missing an enzyme that is required to break down these sugars.
When the beans get to the colon, the bacteria in the colon begins to ferment these sugars producing gas in the process — hydrogen and methane among them. The gas accumulates and eventually escapes your body — which may or may not be blamed on the dog. The best way to prevent gassiness is to cook the beans until completely cooked and tender, chew the beans thoroughly — remember digestion starts in the mouth, and enjoy them with whole grains and other vegetables.
Butterbeans vs. Lima Beans
Butterbeans are native to South America and thrive in the hot, humid Southern climate. There is a raging debate on my Facebook page over whether butterbeans are the same as lima beans. Folks are equally adamant on both sides as to which is which. What do you call the small, green legumes? Butterbeans? Lima beans?
The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension states that lima beans and butterbeans are interchangeable terms, and there is little difference in the varieties. I hate to besmirch the name of my alma mater, and the gardeners may think they have it all sorted out, but you can’t tell me—or many Southern cooks—that flat, tender, petite, green butterbeans are the same as the larger, yellow, starchy lima pods. The main difference is that some butterbean varieties are grown to harvest when young and immature, and some are grown to harvest when older and more mature for drying.
Butterbean Basil Hummus
- 4 cups shelled fresh butterbeans (about 3 pounds unshelled) or frozen butter beans
- 4 cups water , plus more if needed
- 1 onion , preferably Vidalia, chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 shallot , finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic , very finely chopped
- 1 small jalapeño , cored, seeded, and chopped
- Finely grated zest and juice of ½ lemon
- 6 large fresh basil leaves
- 1 tomato , seeded and chopped
- Combine the butterbeans, water, onion, and 1 tablespoon of the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then decrease the heat and simmer, occasionally skimming the scum that floats to the top, until the beans are tender, 35 to 45 minutes for fresh or according to package instructions if frozen.
- Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water. Drain the beans in a colander and shake well to remove excess moisture. Set the beans aside to cool.
- Transfer the drained beans to a blender or food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the garlic, half the jalapeno, lemon zest, lemon juice, and basil. Season with salt and pepper. Purée until smooth, adding a little of the reserved cooking water, if necessary.
- Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Drizzle lightly with any remaining olive oil. Top with the tomatoes and remaining jalapenos. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper to finish.
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