Lima Bean or Butter Bean (Phaseolus lunatus) probably originated in the Andes. The current geographic range of wild Lima beans in Central and South America was probably shaped by a fragmentation event in the northern Andes, isolating populations that continued to evolve independently, and by migration into Central America after the formation of the Isthmus of Panama. A third region that appears to harbor a genetically distinct group is the area to the west and northwest of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico.
Lima Beans were likely domesticated independently in both Central and South America. Archaeologists have found samples dating back to 5000 B.C.E. Today, Lima Bean is found in many tropical, subtropical, and warm temperate parts of North America, Africa, and Asia. Depending on the cultivar, the plant may be a small annual bush (30 to 90 cm in height) or a large climber (2 to 4 m tall). It may be grown as an annual or perennial. The seeds are variable in size (1 to 3 cm in length), shape, and color (white, cream, red, purple brown, black, or mottled). The dried beans are used as pulses. In the United States, the world's largest producer, the immature seeds are frozen or canned (Madagascar and Peru are also major Lima bean producers). The pulse yields a protein-rich flour which is added to bread and noodles in the Philippines and is used in bean paste in Japan. The pods and leaves may also be eaten. The pulse contains 20% protein, 1.3% fat, and 60% carbohydrates (the immature seeds [beans] contain less of these constituents and more water). The mature beans contain the glycoside linamarin, which can produce toxic hydrocyanic acid (prussic acid), although the amount produced varies among cultivars and the United States regulates the concentration allowed commercially. Soaking and boiling the seeds in water, which should be changed during the process, addresses this problem.
(Vaughan and Geissler 1997; Serrano-Serrano et al. 2010)
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