I have never been a fan of the lima bean. Their grainy texture and slightly metallic flavor have always struck me as, well, gross. When I was a kid, vegetables were a mandatory part of every supper, and lima beans were in the regular rotation, along with spinach, broccoli, string beans, cauliflower and peas (with or without accompanying cubes of wan carrot) — all frozen into uniform bricks that could easily be stacked in the freezer door. Sometimes my mother served the lima beans alone, but, as I remember it, they usually appeared on the dinner plate combined with corn, as succotash.
Succotash. Could any food word be less appetizing? In a story I wrote many years ago, a bratty teenager pushes the stuff back and forth on her plate for a while before saying to her mother, “Suck-o-tash.” Her father sends her to her room.
Now that I’m all grown up, I pride myself on my adventurous eating. Hot peppers? Bring ‘em on. Chicken feet? No problem. Duck
penis tongue? Um, okay.
So when I saw fresh lima beans at the supermarket this morning, I figured it was time to give them another try. They looked so lovely in their pods. And they were so fresh! If they had any hope of tasting good, this was their chance. I circled back and picked up an ear of corn. Today was the day I would take the suck out of the ‘tash.
I popped the beans from their pods and steamed them for about five minutes, until they were fork tender. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, I brought half an inch of water to a boil under the shucked corn, and then turned the burner off and let it sit. When both veggies were ready, I shaved the kernels from the cob, combined them with the drained lima beans, and added plenty of butter, salt and pepper.
The corn was great, but the beans tasted terrible. They were this awful chewy texture, and this really ugly gray – closer to the frozen atrocities of my childhood than the happy green legumes I’d envisioned. Looking more closely, I noticed that the surface of the beans was wrinkled and loose. D’oh! Lima beans have a tough skin that has to be removed, like fava beans.
Within a few minutes, my fingers were greasy with butter and salt, a pile of empty skins was mounded beside the pot, and the lima beans were silky smooth and a satisfying deep green. I grabbed my fork and dug in. Still sorta meh.
Undeterred, I mixed through some chopped scallions, squeezed on half a lime, and threw in a handful of cherry tomatoes from my backyard. Then I plated the concoction, poured myself a glass of wine, and took my dinner out to the porch.
The succotash was very pretty, with the delicate corn and the bright tomatoes and the deep green beans. The corn was sweet and the tomato was tart. As for the beans, they were silky. And, when I isolated them from the rest of the ingredients and really concentrated on the taste, they were actually kind of gross, in an unpleasant, metallic way. Just like the lima beans I remember.