Do lima beans need to climb?

Do lima beans need to climb and what sort of trellis is required? What helps them grow and is direct sunlight needed?

There are bush varieties that will bear much sooner but are far less prolific.

There should be a few climbing lima beans growing in every garden. They need a trellis of sorts to cling to. They are planted in Spring and go on bearing for months from April into July in the mild Southern Hemisphere climate. They will provide an excellent source of vegetable protein right through the winter; off the ground they are relatively frost resistant.

Limas have a very deep rooting system so they are less reliant on regular watering like broad beans need. Nevertheless it’s good to have both; they have different benefits. Grow them in full sun.

Do lima beans need to climb?Do lima beans need to climb?

We favour the green lima over its purple-speckled cousin; it’s less chewy and has a wonderful if mild flavour. The seeds are not easy to get but I will give three to anyone visiting Reko Hilton in August when we will be harvesting the dry pods. In cans they are called butter beans.

There’s a story to be told. My father now long dead was an American; he brought back a few packets of seed of the green variety after visiting his parents. They were quite difficult to germinate and of the 40 only two grew; one was taken by a cutworm. Today we enjoy thousands every year, the offspring from that single plant. It has become acclimatised to the soil and weather in our village and thrives.

In Spring build a trellis once the ground is soft after the first rains and the danger of frost is over. We did it for decades with bamboo largely I suppose because it’s free; but the canes only last one year. It is quite a fag cutting them, building the frame and taking down the rotten remains at the end of the season. So now we use intingus.

Lima bean trellis of wattle polesLima bean trellis of wattle pole; intingus in South Africa

Dig holes into the ground about a metre apart, at least 30cm deep and press the poles deeply into the soil; compact it. In the V formed about 2m above ground run another preferably longer intingu. Tie it firmly with twine. The young vines have difficulty clinging to the smooth wattle so we also press in any old bamboo canes too; they don’t need to be strong.

The seeds need to be soaked between two layers of damp newspaper; keep them moist but not wet. They tend to rot. After a few days press one on either side of each intingu into the soil. Germination remains a problem and you will have to be ready to put in more after say two weeks if no little shoot appears. Guide them up the poles, if necessary tying them with twine; and hooking them so they grow ever upwards or they droop to the ground with the weight of the vine.

Limas have a very long growing season; three months or more but will then go on bearing right through the winter. Each plant will produce hundreds of beans; keep some for planting the following Spring.

Some watering may be necessary in you have a harsh winter; deep mulching with autumn leaves will save you a lot of time and effort.


Folate is a very important B vitamin, absolutely essential from conception to the grave. A deficiency during pregnancy causes severe birth defects; tiredness from anaemia and early frailty.
The vitamin is required for protein metabolism; a deficiency causes a build up of toxic homocysteine. One cup of limas provides nearly half of your daily need.
There is a strong correlation with achievement in school.


Protein from a lima bean shakshuka

1 cup of cooked lima beans contains about 12 grams of protein, about a quarter of an adult’s needs; nearly sufficient for a small child. But it is not complete; some essential amino acids are missing. An egg, glass of milk or meat is necessary to prevent kwashiorkor.


Choline really should be called a vitamin; it’s absolutely essential for health and 90% of those eating typical grocery store food are deficient.

Lima beans have many other virtues; google them. We have enjoyed them daily since the beginning of April; they will continue for about four months. They take about five minutes to cook; a veritable pantry of vegetable protein daily for a third of the year. Every family should be growing them and enjoying them daily. We often use them in a “shakshuka;” a crazy mixed-up dish.

Don’t buy your food; grow it if you can! The only cost is the sweat off your brow.

Lima bean shakshuka on toastLima bean shakshuka on toast

Do lima beans need to climb?

Do lima beans need to climb and how long does it take for the plant to produce a crop?

Climbing beans in general are my first choice; they produce a much larger crop but they take about 3 months before they start bearing.


Are lima beans starchy?

There are many myths about dieting; one of them is that legumes are all starchy and you must avoid them for ever. Whilst a cup of limas does contain about 40 grams of carb most of it is either fibre (6g) or of the resistant type. They have a low glycemic index; much passes through to the colon where instead of producing glucose it feeds the microbiome.

It is in any case our contention that it is the refined carbs, particularly sugar and white flour that make us obese; that's the place to start if wanting to lose weight, not the healthy starches like legumes.

The next step is this lima bean soup. First make a bouillon from vegetable scraps.


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