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Dixie Butter Shelling Beans
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Dixie Butter shelling beans produce a pod similar to conventional lima beans, slightly curved into a classic bean shape, thick skinned and vibrant green in color. Pods however are smaller than many lima types and contain on average three to four beans which are when mature characteristically speckled with pink streaks or dots, similar in appearance to that of cranberry beans. The texture of the beans is smooth and creamy and they offer a starchy, bean flavor. Presoaking dried beans prior to cooking will impart a more succulent texture and almost buttery flavor.
Dixie Butter shelling beans are available late spring through the summer months.
Dixie Butter beans are botanically a part of Phaseolus lunatus and a member of the Fabaceae family. A lima bean variety the Dixie Butter bean is a bush bean type and used both as a fresh shelling bean and a dried bean. The interior beans of the Dixie Butter bean can be shades of white, green or speckled with brown and pink depending upon maturity and cultivator. In addition to Dixie Butter beans there are also dixie butter peas which have a more delicate pea shell and smaller more succulent peas. While considered a lima bean type the Dixie Butter bean is considered by chefs and growers to be a unique variety as result of its coloring and petite size.
Dixie Butter beans are low in fat and offer protein, fiber and potassium. Additionally they offer some iron, magnesium and calcium. While lima type beans such as Dixie Butter do contain protein they are an incomplete protein, meaning they do not contain all the amino acids needed to convert properly to usable protein in the body. To form a complete protein serve Dixie Butter beans with rice, corn or seeds.
Dixie Butter beans can be utilized when they are immature and slightly green in color or when fully matured and dried. Whatever stage they are used at they must be cooked prior to consumption. Beans can be simmered, baked, sautéed and microwaved. For best texture Dixie Butter beans should be simmered and not fully boiled to avoid the beans turning mealy. Fresh beans will cook faster than dried beans. If used in their dried form beans should be soaked for at least six hours and up to overnight prior to cooking. Cooked beans can be added to casseroles, enchiladas, stews and soups. Given their short season Dixie Butter beans are also popularly canned and frozen to preserve them for use throughout the year. The flavor of Dixie Butter beans will pair well with caraway, garlic, tomato, mustard, nutmeg, cinnamon, brown sugar, molasses, honey, butter, olive oil, lemon zest, ham and bacon. To store keep fresh Dixie Butter beans refrigerated and use within five days.
In the southern United States many lima beans both baby and fully mature are commonly referred to as butter beans. The butter bean has been a staple in the diet of southerners for centuries as a result of its high nutrition content and ability to be very filling as well as for its relatively low price point and ease to grow in the southern climate.
The botanical group Phaseolus lunatus is believed to be native to the Andes and Mesoamerica and dates back to as early as 2000 BC. Evidence of lima bean types can be found in the form of drawings on pottery art that date back to the time of the ancient Incans indicating their importance as a food crop there. The Dixie Butter bean botanically is considered a type of lima bean though culinarily in many places it is considered to be in a category all its own. In the southern United States specifically all small seeded type beans of Phaseolus lunatus are referred to as a butter beans. The Dixie Butter bean has been a staple in the southern United States since the 1700’s and still today is celebrated during its brief season in the summer months. Like most shelling bean varieties the Dixie Butter bean thrives in warm to hot growing conditions and once established will be drought tolerant.