SCIENTIFIC NAME: Phaseolus lunatus
FAMILY: Fabaceae

The lima bean Phaseolus lunatus originated in South America. Large-seeded varieties were already known in Peru 5000 years ago.

The Malayan/Indonesian name is Kacang Cina or Kacang Jawa. It can be a robust perennial climbing vine or with dwarf forms, it grows to about 90cm with racemes of white or pink flowers. It flowers late in summer.

All limas need a warm soil temperature. They last for several years in the ground in the tropics and sub-tropics, forming thick stems and large masses of leaves. There is usually little production in the first year, but in subsequent years prolific numbers of pods are formed with minimal effort on the part of the gardener. Harvest before they rot on the vine. Limas will not cross with other beans but will cross with one another. Yields in lowland conditions of high humidity can go as high as 1300 kg of dry beans per hectare.

The plant itself helps restore soil fertility by shedding leaves copiously throughout its life.

Limas have a creamy texture when picked green and boiled. Dry beans give substance to soups. The Madagascar variety are free of toxic substances. Some old varieties contain high levels of dangerous cyanogenic glycosides, the effects of which can be counteracted with soaking, boiling, draining and peeling off the testa or skin.

The many cultivars may be divided into two types: annual Bush Limas, and Climbing Limas.

"Fordhook 242" and "Burpee Bush" are both recommended Bush Limas for the tropics.

Some recommended Climbing or pole Limas are, "King of the Garden and "Florida Speckled Butter".

Sources: Seed Savers Network,
H.F. Macmillan's Tropical Planting And Gardening.
Cardwell/Johnstone Branch News Apr/May 1995

DATE: May 1995

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