It’s soon going to be Christmas and did you know that Christmas has its own beans? I am not kidding you. They are called Christmas Lima Beans! Alright, so maybe it is not a bean exclusive to Christmas but the catchy name is what prompted me to pick up the package.
As a food writer, one of the things I do and enjoy is wandering the aisles of supermarkets and carefully examining the products, looking for new items, listening to customers chatting with each other about various products. I often find some people mumbling to themselves (quite rightly so) about the ridiculous cost of groceries. So, last week I was wandering the aisles of one of the chain-supermarkets here in Barbados and that is how I came across the Christmas Lima Beans.
I love all sorts of beans and peas, I think they are so perfect in their colour, texture and flavour; as a result, I often stock up and you can find quite a variety in my cupboards. I spotted the name on the package before I noticed the beans themselves and when I turned the package around, it was love at first sight. There they were – broad, large, flat beans, cream in colour with bold splashes of dark burgundy. I immediately marvelled at how much larger they would be once they were soaked and rehydrated. I began to think of ways I could use the Christmas Lima Beans and my default position was: a dish or rice and peas (beans). I was excited also because I thought I’d make the rice and Christmas Beans to serve on Christmas day. Corny I know.
I grabbed two of the bags and then l looked up to check the price: US$8.39 for 1 (12 oz) packet! My jaw dropped and I put back both packets. What the hell! I thought. They are only beans! I still have to cook them with other stuff! I stood up inspecting the package and reading the label. Perhaps they were that expensive because they are heirloom beans? And was the taste superior to other Lima beans? Or was it because they were so attractive? As these questions passed through my mind I was thinking of you; I felt it my duty to buy the beans and tell you about it. Duty-bound and armed with my expensive package of Christmas Lima Beans I headed to the check-out counter.
If you are a regular reader of this column, then you ought to know that whenever I discover new ingredients I always like to prepare them using a method and preparation that I am most familiar with to test out the ingredient before venturing in to unfamiliar territory. Rice and peas then was the order of the day.
I started by first measuring a dry bean, I was so taken in by the size of it. When I measured it, lengthways, it was just shy of three-quarters of an inch. I soaked the beans over night and then I measured one again, it was one and a half inches! I sautéed the onions and thyme along with a bay leaf and then added the peas to the pot, it took an hour for them to get to the right texture before I could add the rice and complete cooking the dish. Another day, I used the pressure cooker instead and it was done in 15 minutes, counting from the first whistle of the pressure cooker. So if you’re looking to save time, the pressure cooker is the way to go.
The beans looked liked pieces of meat in the rice, because of their colour and size. As I ate my meal I found that I did not need to eat the chicken I had prepared separately to have with the rice and beans as the beans in themselves were satisfying and gave a nice mouth-feel – that you’re biting into something and that it was flavourful. I soon found myself picking the beans out of my rice to eat them separately. They were definitely worth the US$8.39, but only for special occasions or if I am following a vegetarian diet. In other words then, They are too expensive to be my “house beans”.
So why are they called Christmas Lima Beans? Remember I mentioned just now about them being flavourful? Well, it’s because of the distinct chestnut flavour once cooked, combined with their festive colouring that led to them being called Christmas Lima Beans. They are also known as Chestnut Lima or Speckled Lima. Lima beans are so named after the capital of Peru and their heritage can be traced there back to about 1500 CE (the middle ages). History also tells us that the Lima plant and bean were initially catalogued and named in 1837 in Jamaica.
The Christmas Lima Beans are also Heirloom beans. Heirloom beans are called heirlooms because the plant and beans have been handed down within a small community for several generations.
From the research I have done and my own cooking knowledge, Christmas Lima Beans would be great in soups, casseroles, stews, stuffing and salads. I am positive that with so many other cuisines out there and dishes these beans would fit right in. The next time I cook them I want to make Cook-up rice and see how the flavour plays along with the coconut milk. I am guessing that it will add a hint of sweetness to the beans. Yum! Oh and some slow-cooked oxtail stew. Got to go, I’ve got Christmas Beans plans to make!