How and When To Pick Butter Beans

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If you are in the southern part of the United States, then you have probably had butter beans a time or two. Butter beans are also called Baby Lima Beans in other parts of the country, but whoever named them butter beans got the naming right, in my opinion. They have a light, fresh, buttery taste that is nothing like a Lima bean.

Butter beans can grow on a bush or as a climbing vine. Bush varieties are 'Henderson's', and 'Fordhook'. Some vining varieties are 'King of the Garden' and 'Florida'. I typically grow the 'Henderson's' bush varieties in my garden.

Butter beans

If you are growing butter beans in your garden for the first time, perhaps you are unsure of when or how to pick these delicious beans. It can be confusing at times to know exactly when the butter bean pods are ready to be picked. Here is how I check my butter beans to determine whether they are ready to harvest, and how to harvest them. Once you get the hang of it, it’s a snap (no pun intended).

When To Pick Butter Beans

It usually takes my 'Henderson's Baby Lima Beans' anywhere from 60 to 65 days to mature from seed. I will mark on my calendar when I sowed the butter bean seeds, then keep a closer check on the pods once I start getting close to the 60 to 65 day mark. The performance of the plants may be different from season to season, or zone to zone, depending on the climate, weather, and other factors. The 60 to 65 days is just a guideline.

Butter bean Plants

The best way to check the butter bean pods is by examining a few of them by hand. Gently grab a pod that looks plump, and rub it with your thumb.

This Butterbean Pod Looks and Feels Plump With Beans, So It's Ready To Pick

This butter bean pod looks and feels plump with beans, so it's ready to harvest.

This Butterbean Pod Is Not Ready To Pick Yet. See How Flat The Pod Is? No Beans In This One Yet

This Butter Bean Left On the Bush Too Long pod is not ready to pick yet. See how flat the pod is? No beans in this one yet.

You can see in the top picture the pod is plump with beans, and by rubbing it I can feel about how big the beans are. This butter bean pod is ready to pick. You want to pick butter beans when the pods look and feel plump with beans, and when the pod is still a bright green color. In the bottom picture, the pod is flat and does not show any signs of butter beans yet. Give this pod a few more days to fill out.

If the pods are left on the vine too long it will begin to yellow a bit, then turn brown – like the pod below. You want to pick the pods before they get to this stage. Some people wait until the pods get to this point. There is nothing wrong with it, you just need to pay closer attention at this stage. You don’t want the beans to dry out. I like to pick the butter beans when they are still young and tender, like the pods above.

Butterbean Left On the Bush Too Long

How To Pick Butter Beans

Picking butter beans is very easy – it’s all in the wrist. Just grasp the butter bean pod just below the stem, and give it a quick tug. This will pull the pod from the plant. Once the pod has matured they come off the bush fairly easy.

It is as simple as that!

I hope that you enjoy your fresh butter beans. If you are not growing these wonderful beans, you should give them a try!

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Comments

  1. Thank you so much for your great instructions and photos. My son planted a Lima bean plant in his 2nd grade class. We transplanted it from a small plastic cup to a larger pot. I didn’t expect it to grow. Much to my surprise it really took off. Aside from the pretty green leaves, it started flowering! Next thing we knew we had pods. I had absolutely NO IDEA in the world when to pick them. Thanks to your website, I feel comfortable in picking them today. My son is in for a surprise when he gets home.

    Thank you again for taking the time to create this site.

    Sierra

  2. I love butter beans. As a kid, I used to hang out with Daddy in the small garden he planted. He had corn, tomatoes, potatoes, green beans, cucumbers, squash, and of course, the most favorite of all, the butter beans. Shelling them was half the fun for me. I can still conjur up the aroma and the sounds, especially the soft thumps hitting the bottom of the bowl on those first ones. My gosh, it was so long ago but so very fresh in my mind, and heart.

    Daddy would always say after picking corn and butter beans…. hurry up now – run these up to the house – before all the sweetness is gone.

    Thank you for the great reminder of Daddy…. and his garden. And, the informative details on your website.

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