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
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).