Beans: Lima & Snap
Lima (Phaseolous lunatus) and snap beans (P. vulgaris) are vegetable legumes (not lentils), comprised of a seamed pod with a row of internal seeds. Both types produce flat, oval, or kidney-shaped seeds, which can be either smooth or textured depending on variety.
The primary difference between the two is the pod—lima beans are called shell beans and removed from the fibrous and inedible pod, while snap beans are eaten whole (both the pods and internal seeds).
Types & Varieties
Both beans are known by a number of other names from bush or pole/vine/runner depending on plant type to the nondescript and all-encompassing ‘green’ beans for the snap varieties, to the more flavor-influenced monikers like ‘butter beans’ for smaller limas (though ‘baby lima beans’ refer to a variety not size), and ‘potato beans’ for larger limas.
Lima beans are cream/beige or green in color, though newer varieties and hybrids can come in reddish-brown, purple, or speckled. Green or snap beans come in the requisite green, yellow or wax, red/purple, and streaked.
Snap beans may be string or stringless (though today’s varieties are almost all stringless). Some varieties are flat while others are round; they are called snap beans due to the most common test for quality: to be crisp enough to easily ‘snap’ in half.
Among the popular fresh market varieties for snap beans are Bronco, Derby, Gator Green, Mustand, Opus, Podsquad, Provider, Roma II, and Strike. A few yellow (wax) pod varieties for the fresh market are Eureka, Golden Rod, Goldkist, Gold Mine, and Goldrush.
Two popular processing varieties of lima beans are Bridgeton and Fordhook; home garden and fresh market varieties include Dixie or Florida Speckled, Henderson Bush, and King of the Garden.