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MIKE KEELER: “Sufferin’ Succotash!!”

These things are so awesome and tasty, they’re killer.

Way back in the 1500s, when the Spanish headed west to explore the Americas, they ran into many dangers. One of the more subtle perils was some curiously large seed pods they found growing in Peru. When the Spaniards opened them, they found each pod contained 2-4 huge beans that were almost too tough to eat. And, if they ate them raw, the poor conquistadors suffered severe stomach pains which may have even been deadly. They called them Lima beans, in reference to the Peruvian capital, and cautiously stuck some in their saddlebags.

At some point, probably before the Spanish started slaughtering the locals, the native Incas told them that the beans contained a mild insecticide to ward off pests (it turned out to be cyanide.) You have to boil the beans to burn the poison off and soften them up. After that, they are so delicious they were a favorite of Incan nobility.

Once the Spanish realized how yummy cooked Limas are, they sent some home to Spain. The raw pods are pretty much indestructible, so they traveled very well. Pretty soon, Lima beans were growing throughout Europe, and from there the Portuguese spread them in the other direction, east to their colonies in Africa and Asia.

It took quite a bit longer for Limas to make it up to North America. The first known shipment into the United States arrived in 1865 at Santa Barbara, and soon after they were growing all over California. Today, more Lima’s are grown in California than anywhere else in the world.

Limas are full of fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals, they help stabilize blood sugar levels, and they may even help prevent cancer. Trouble is, you can usually only get them frozen (which reduces their nutritional value) or canned (packed in salt and preservatives). This time of the year, however, you can find them raw at roadside stands, still packed in their poisoned pods. They’re just waiting for you to do what the Incas did: tear the pods open, throw out any soft beans, soak them for a while, peel the skins off and boil them for about a half hour.

Now…I know that some of you might be saying, “But Mike, I hate Lima beans!” No, you don’t. While you’re at that same roadside stand, just make sure to grab some corn and red peppers. Add those in at the end with a little butter and salt. Simmer for 5 minutes. Grab a spoon.

Trust me, gringos, you’ll be saying, “Sufferin’ Succotash! This is awesome!!”

Si, naturalmente. Con gusto, amigos.

Mike Keeler

– Mike Keeler

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