Freshly dried lima beans from this past fall harvest are available in abundance right now from local Carpinteria area farmer Tom Shepherd. Commonly referred to as "butter beans," this variety is renowned for its distinct nutty flavor and thick creamy texture with every bite. This bean is extremely hearty, making for a sufficient meal base, delicious when combined with fresh seasonal veggies. Whether enjoyed hot off the stove, or as a cold bean salad chilled in the refrigerator, the flavor can't be matched with this local favorite.

Dried lima beans are an extremely nutrient packed food, providing an exceptional diversity of vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber. In a 1-cup serving of prepared dried lima beans you are delivered more than 35 grams of dietary fiber, and 39 grams of protein. In addition, prepared dried lima beans provide an abundance of calcium, iron, potassium, thiamin, folate, vitamin B6 and 12, zinc, copper, magnesium and phosphorus.

When selecting your lima beans at the farmers market, look for those that are free of wrinkles, soft spots and discoloration. The outer surface should be smooth and portray a vibrant white color across its hard shell. Dried lima beans tend to average about the size of a quarter, and about one-eighth of an inch thick, when reaching peak maturity and flavor. Once home, dried lima beans should be stored in an air tight container in a cool dark location. They store extremely well when they are free of any exposure to moisture, easily lasting more than six months.

Like all dried beans, the trick to getting them just right always comes down to the amount of water and whether or not to pre-soak. With these beans, I found a 2 1/2 to 1 water-bean ratio works best when brought to a boil and reduced to a simmer. Total cooking time averages about 2 hours, with no pre-soaking required for a delicious finish. They will just about double in size when completed.

For this week's Fix, I went for a simple Warm Lima Bean Salad served with a side of freshly steamed broccoli.


WARM LIMA BEAN SALAD

1 cup dried lima beans
1 cup vegetable of chicken broth
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoon Herbs de Provence (or Italian seasoning)
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 bunch green onion, diced (set into 2 piles)
zest from 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese or Parmesan

Rinse lima beans under cold water and set aside. In a small pot, add broth and water. Add lima beans, herbs, garlic, half of your green onions, lemon zest and freshly cracked pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Stir a couple of times and cover. Cooking time for beans is approximately 2 hours. Check them every 20 minutes or so after the first hour to ensure they do not over cook. Once tender, drain any excess liquid and toss beans with remaining green onions, lemon juice, olive oil and feta cheese. Season with salt and additional pepper if needed. Serves about 4 sides or 2 hearty meals. Perfectly accompanies freshly steamed broccoli, Brussels sprouts, sauted kale, or any other leafy winter green.