Butterbeans and a southerner's amusement.

mcleod(8a)March 27, 2013

I don't often post to garden web unless I have a specific question or feel I have something definite to add to a discussion. I do however like to read various threads and posts and often get amused by the discussions on topics that I feel I do know something about.
One of these topics that I as a native born son of The Heart of Dixie, Alabama for those not blessed to be from there, is butterbeans. I grew up eating out of a quater acre garden as did everyone else and butterbeans were just one of those things everyone grew without much thought going into it. Yes, there were different varieties but to us it basically boiled down to pole or bush, pole most common, and speckled or regular butterbeans.
Most of us bought our seed each year at the feed and grain but some did save seed but that was the exception. Speckled beans were generally requested as bush (jackson wonder) or pole large or small (christmas or florida) plain butterbeans were either pole (seiva or seiva type) or bush (fordhook or henderson).
It was only when I came of an age for my own quarter acre garden that I started paying attention to the exact varieties and understanding the finer points in the differences between them.
Don't get me wrong though to a natural son of the south they are all still butterbeans, lima being a term used by yankees and the closest aproximation to that term being understood to mean a small green butterbean harvested young and tender and prepared as found in the cans at the grocery store. Funny though the most common way we picked and preserved butterbeans was exactly that, picked as green shellies and blanched for two minutes and frozen for a very similar end product on the table.
I shouldn't get so amused at all y'all folks struggling with butterbeans. I guess it's just an eye opener to really appreciate one of those garden vegetables I have always taken for granted.
Well to get this thread to a point I'll list my preferred cultivars and open the floor to comments.

If I had just one favorite it would be the one I grudgingly call a true "baby lima" by my understanding, the best small green butterbean I have ever tasted is hands down Baby Thorogreen. Yes, I know everyone says Cangreen is the same thing but I beg to differ. Similar and a suitable substitute but not as sweet and tender. I attribute this to the fact that there are multiple strains of Thorogreen/Cangreen and they all came out of Henderson Bush. To me the Cangreen taste leans more to the seiva type, drier and starchier. I know the seiva well as that is my mother's favorite and what Dad always planted "just for your mama". Dad is a big fan of speckled butterbeans and always planted Florida for himself.
For pure unadulterated speckled bean flavor I have Jackson Wonder on about a three year rotation. It is hands down the strongest flavored I have grown, many find it to be obnoxious. I grow it on a three year rotation as I to find it to strong for a regular diet but grow and put up enough to satisfy the occasional craving for a strong tasting butterbean.
Both the Florida and Christmas are milder and I have a sneaking appreciation for the Christmas bean as the milder of the two giving good butterbean flavor with the strength of a good speckled bean.
Here I'll digress and explain my feeling on pole versus bush. If it were up to me to pick the beans I'd grow all pole because at 6'2" with a back and pair of knees feeling the effects of forty plus years of hard labor it's much easier to pick standing up compared to squatting or scooting on my butt to pick bush beans. I know it is much more work to set poles and I hate it more and more with each passing year but fortunately I have a better solution, a younger and shorter wife. ;) She much prefers bush to pole as I have a tendency to set poles for my height and not hers so I am going to all bush where ever I can and let her do all the picking.
On the seiva types I have tried I like the form of the Willowleaf but just prefer the flavor and bush form of Thorogreen.
King of the Garden is a real nice large butterbean but the large pole form and slow to bear just isn't for me.
One that has recently been added to my every year rotation is Dixie Butterpea for it's flavor and meatiness that falls somewhere between Thorogreen and Seiva in flavor to me.
The speckled form is good as well just not enough for me to bump something else to make room for it.
This year I'll be trialing Burpee's Improved in my search for a large butterbean for dried beans.
So there it is, I'll post this and see where it goes.

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wertach zone 7-B SC

Good post mcleod. I grew up further north than you, when I was working in AL they called me a Yankee, I'm from SC! LOL

My Dad always grew Speckled butter beans and butter peas from the feed and seed. I never new the actual name of them, I just knew they were good.

I still do buy some things from the feed and seed.

"If I had just one favorite it would be the one I grudgingly call a true "baby lima""

Same here!

I have had a few problems growing Speckled butter beans over the last few years. I think it is mostly due to the drought that we have been having and my lack of time due to work schedule to keep them watered. On call 24/7.

I'm going to mulch them heavily this year.

"Funny though the most common way we picked and preserved butterbeans was exactly that, picked as green shellies and blanched for two minutes and frozen for a very similar end product on the table."

Very true, some people like to dry them for storage, they loose the taste. I bought some dry Christmas limas one fall. I would have enjoyed boiled paper just as much! LOL


    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 1:26PM
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I like a good dried bean myself, hence the Burpees Improved this year. I've always just satisfied myself with off the shelf dried large butterbeans from the store but if i can grow them then why not. I know I can't grow them out cheaper but my pride says do it.
The trick to dried butterbeans is a long soak, a healthy dose (my healthy not the AMA) of bacon grease and long slow cooking until the skins have slipped and the texture is just this side of porridge.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 2:55PM
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I love reading these posts - I'm a Yankee who rediscovered veggie gardening down here in GA and continue to be amazed at the variety of veggies I can grow and that not everything is dead at the end of September. :)

I've become a lima/butterbean aficionado, partly because of reading the passion for beans on this board. I grew Gigandes from Harry (Flintknapper) last year - O.M.G! I think those are our favorites and they are really best eaten as shellies - simmered until tender then put in an Italian type Olive Oil based marinade. But next favorite is Christmas limas right off the vine and into the pot - simmered long and slow with that bacon grease that McLeod recommends. I love all the butterbeans. The German Red Limas (bush) that I got from Harry are a close third. And of course the Black Jungle Butterbeans.

I stored some dried beans this year and so far have only done some BJBBs from dry - they are so very different than fresh from the garden. As Ted said - the flavor wasn't there... But the texture was radically different.

I freeze straight from the garden - no blanching. And so far I haven't seen a problem with the butterbeans. They're not quite as good as fresh, but enough that I plan to freeze more next summer. :) Green beans are another story.

Thanks for this thread!


    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 3:17PM
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Cindy, ain't it wonderful being able to have something growing in the ground at all times of the year. About the best thing to go with those butterbeans from the freezer in the dead of winter is fresh collard greens from the garden.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 3:31PM
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wertach zone 7-B SC

You've got it mcleod, Bacon makes everything happy!

I bought some bacon bologna last weekend and fried it up in "healthy" grease, olive oil. Fixed a side of Hercules peas.


    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 4:18PM
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hementia8(8 MS)

Another AL.native here[Mobile]
We have only moved 70 mi.north,however there are a lot of things we grew there that we can no longer grow outside here
We do grow many butterbeans and our favorite and most productive is Florida Speckled
We have about run out of frozen and last night we had a mixture of FS and Red Ripper Cowpeas along with cornbread
Things could not have be better

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 11:11AM
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