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Dominica weekly is a personal weblog about the nature island of Dominica.


lima beans

Editor’s note: I’m not a complainer. Really, I’m not. But having lived my first 68 years in the USA, I find that things being different take me some getting used to. Understand, please, I’m not asserting that “different” is wrong. It’s probably right for here; only I’m unused to it.

The Dominican Difference #2: When to eat Lima beans. Here in Dominica they’re called “butter beans” and people let them become hard, brown mature seeds before they gather them.

When they are hard brown and dry they must be soaked a long time before cooking or cooked in a pressure cooker in order to make them soft and palatable. I understand why it’s customary to gather dry beans here. They are not grown in patches, and it is seldom that enough can be gathered for one meal, especially a family meal. And, many Dominicans, especially in days past, had no refrigeration, meaning only dry beans could be stored.

In the USA these beans are called “baby limas” when they are small and green, and “lima beans” when they are large but before turning dry and brown and hard. After they turn brown, they’re called “navy beans”, because the navy could store those in bags. Trust me, the baby limas and limas are delicious. They can simply be boiled for a short time. Serve them with butter. For an extra delicious treat, take some sweet corn off the cob and boil the kernels with the beans. The dish is called succotash.

We like these beans so much that I gathered some seeds in the wild and we planted them. Placed in a pot, they sprouted overnight! I half expected to see a giant atop a beanstalk. We planted a row of them along wires we strung between poles so that now we have a “butter bean” crop.

Pretty much goes the same for wild peas (“bougasu” in Patois; “pois sauvage” in French). They are delicious raw in salads when still green, although they can be stored or used as seeds when brown. The pea plant has a pretty little flower, from which the peacock gets its name. Look carefully at the flower and you’d easily see the bird’s body and tail fan. One pea variety has a pretty reddish leaf and potted makes a nice house plant; I suppose its peas are also edible.

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