Aretha Franklin asked for a little respect back in the 60s, but today it is the lima bean who is asking for some honor. That’s right, lima beans, those large-ish green-ish frozen or canned beans that Americans eat very, very little of, have their own holiday now, Lima Bean Respect Day celebrated on April 20.
If 4/20 already sounds familiar to you, that’s probably for a few different reasons. It’s the anniversary of the Columbine Highschool shooting, made even more tragic by the recent school shooting headlines, and it’s the annual celebration of weed known as “Weed Day.”
It’s also, apparently, National Cheddar Fries Day, National Pineapple Upside-Down Cake Day, and National Lookalike Day.
Well, hold onto your knickers, because we’re about to take you on a tour of all the reasons to fall in love with the lima bean. Whether you’re just happy for one more reason to celebrate or have come looking for the ultimate in Lima Bean Respect Day celebration strategies, we’ve got you covered! Plus, we’ve got a few recipes for the lima-nervous among you.
The Brussels sprouts you grew up eating (mushy and bland) are nothing like the Brussels sprouts available today, crispy and fried with bacon and lima beans are much the same. If you grew up eating bad lima beans, give this little bean some (ahem) respect and give it another try. We think you’ll be glad you did!
How This Weird Holiday Got Started
The truth is, nobody knows how Lima Bean Respect Day got its start. It simply started showing up on online calendars. In 2017 and 2018, the Twitter community embraced the holiday, trolling followers with the “real reason to celebrate!”
We’re not too sad, though, because this bean has a way more interesting history than what you probably thought. Plus, it’s a lot more exotic!
The Exotic, Mysterious, And (Sometimes) Dangerous Bean
We say “lime-a” when we pronounce “lima bean,” but we’re doing it wrong. The bean is named after Lima, Peru (which is pronounced “leem-a”) where it was first discovered, cultivated, and domesticated at around 2000 B.C. That’s a lot of lima beans over the years!
The beans were discovered by the Spanish, who occupied Peru in the 1500s. After being dried, boxed up, and shipped back home to Europe, they were labeled with their point of origin (Lima), which is how they came to be known as lima beans (why they’re pronounced differently, however, we’ll never know).
Did we say lima beans were dangerous? That’s right, we did! Most beans, it turns out, contain a cyanide compound that has to be cooked out (you should never consume raw beans). In some parts of the world--such as Java and Burma--these amounts are so high that it might be completely unsafe to eat the legume, but most of the time you’ll be fine as long as the beans have been well cooked.
Why this weird and dangerous compound? It’s part of the beans’ defense mechanism against pests. When injured, the bean plant releases chemicals that call the predators of whatever’s eating it. Nature is wild!
The Bean Today
In more recent times, they’ve been cultivated throughout North and South America, including in the United States. In fact, parts of California, including Beverly Hills and L.A., were well known for their beans before more valuable malls and housing replaced the fields.
In the south, a special cultivar of lima beans are known as butter beans (though technically, they’re not the same thing). Either way, they’re delicious!
Weird & Hilarious Lima Bean Facts
Lima Bean Recipes You'll Love (We Promise)
No mushy green mass on your plate this time! We’ve got some delicious recipes that will have you cheerfully celebrating Lima Bean Respect Day more often than April 20!
Lima beans are practically fat-free, but they’re also extremely high in protein, making them a great substitute for meat. Plus, they’re full of fiber, which is great if you’re trying to manage insulin issues, reduce your risk of heart disease, or lower your cholesterol.
The trick with lima beans (as with most beans) is to make sure they’re thoroughly cooked and to use fat and salt liberally. Whether it’s butter, bacon grease, or some other kind of fat, the combination is divine!
Lima beans benefit here from an easy preparation. The fat comes in the form of oil added at the very beginning, and the long cook time means a buttery, delicious finish. You can ladle these beans over rice or serve them next to the main dish.
Heat oil in dutch oven and add onion, garlic, celery, and carrots. Saute until vegetables are translucent, then add water and beans. Add herbs, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce and simmer for forty minutes, or until beans fall apart when poked with a fork.
Cover and let sit at the back of the stove for about twenty minutes.
Slow Cooker Sausage & Lima Beans
Another easy and delicious dish, this one can be modified to use on the stove. The use of frozen baby lima beans means your dish will be ready quickly, but you can also substitute dried lima beans for an even cheaper meal (make sure you use about three times as much water, however, and up the cooking time to about four to six hours).
Serve alongside cornbread for an extra special touch!
Add ingredients to your slow cooker and cook on low for 2-3 hours. To make on the stovetop, saute onions in olive oil, then add sausage, beans, and water. Bring to boil, then allow to simmer for one hour. To make with dried beans, follow same instructions but use 4 cups of water and cook in slow cooker for 4-5 hours or on the stovetop for 2 hours.
Lima Bean Respect Day Soup
If you see a theme with lima bean recipes--easy, delicious, and simple--you’d be right. This recipe is another one of those classic standbys that taste even better the next day and is a wonderful way to end a long day.
This particular soup has a Tuscan flair to it, but you could easily swap out the oregano for liquid smoke, the pancetta for bacon, and the kale for chard for a more Southern dish.
Saute onion, carrots, celery, garlic, and pancetta in olive oil for 2-3 minutes (until onions start to become translucent). Add lima beans and saute for another minute, then add broth, water, tomatoes, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 1-2 hours, until beans are tender and fall apart when you bit into one. Enjoy with lots of hot, crusty bread to sop up the juice!