Lima beans were a hot-weather favorite of Thomas Jefferson, and were among the most conspicuous vegetables in the garden during late summer. Monticello’s Scottish-born gardener, Robert Bailey, saved seed of White Carolina beans in 1794. Also known as Sieva, this variety is smaller and more delicately-flavored than others. At Monticello fresh lima beans were commonly boiled until tender; then served in a “boat” of melted butter. Native to South America and grown by Virginia Indians, lima beans were also called “bushel,” “sugar,” or “butter” beans in the 1700s. Jefferson sowed them yearly from 1809-1824, and once observed “I never saw them in France.”
After the soil has warmed in late spring, plant seeds in hills of fertile, well-prepared garden loam and provide at least 8’ of support for the vines with poles, trellises, or fences. Harvest pods when plump. 65-80 days to maturity.
Approximately 15 seeds per pack.
Image courtesy of Terri Keffert.
Line Drawing from The Vegetable Garden by M. M. Vilmorin-Andrieux (1885).