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  • Writer's pictureNancy Redfeather

Violet’s Multi-Colored Butter Beans – Our Shared Seed Stories

By Nancy Redfeather

2020 #1

I’ll admit it, I have creepy childhood memories of my mother serving canned green lima beans at dinner. When she was engaged in conversation with my father at the table, I would feed them one by one to my dog Dotty, who was somehow always lying under my chair. They were mealy and tasteless. So when I saw the amazing rainbow of colors of the Violet’s Multi-colored Butter Bean, (also a Lima Bean) I was enthralled but extremely cautious! The colors were cream, beige, red-brown, and violet purple with speckles and swirls. OK so they’re beautiful, but how do they taste?

So I decided to grow them.

Violet’s Butter Beans are a small pole lima bean, and need a trellis to grow on. The small seeds (inside the 3-5” pods) have a great flavor, and can be eaten fresh or dried & cooked. Besides being hardy and beautiful, beans are one of the most underrated foods on the planet. They are excellent sources of fiber, protein, B vitamins and other important vitamins and minerals, and there is good evidence of many health benefits. I have done many bean trials here in Kona, and many varieties just don’t like it here! However, Violet’s Butter Bean is one of the hardy naturals for our climate, offering good disease and drought resistance, and sometimes more than one crop!

Every seed has a story and thankfully the story of these beans has been passed on. The name comes from a Ms. Violet Brady Westbrook’s family who saved the seeds and passed them along for 4 generations (that is a long time) in Banks County Georgia. Also, I learned that in the “South” lima beans are called “butter beans”- sounds better, don’t you think? The lima bean originates from the Andes of Peru and domestication took place around 2000 BC. The small seeded “Sieve” varieties (like Violet’s) can be traced back to about 800 AD, and by 1500, they had spread around the world.

Cooking Tips: If you want a fresh bean, pick when the pods are green and steam them up. If you’d like to save them as a dried bean, pick when the pods are tan colored. Don’t leave them on the bush, especially if the weather is rainy. I like to pick them, shell them, and dry the beans on a plate on my kitchen table. Butter Beans cook more quickly than many other beans, but all beans should be soaked overnight to decrease the phytates and lectins that will help you digest them more easily. You can also sprout or ferment them first. See article below for all the details. I always start them the night before; 2 cups of dry beans in enough water to cover, bring to boil, turn off the stove, and wrap them up in a towel overnight. That starts the cooking process and reduces phytates and lectins. The next day, drain that water, put in fresh water and cook until tender. Lima beans should never be eaten raw.

I love these beans in soups, for hummus, and for making chili. I’m going to include two of my favorite recipes below. Violet’s Butter Bean is open-pollinated (meaning you can save seed for the next planting) and nitrogen fixing (good for your soil). Planting Instructions are on the seed packet. Seed packets are currently available on our marketplace,

2. Soaking, sprouting, or fermenting beans (great article):

3. Here is a dry to cooked bean ratio:

1 pound dried beans = Up to 6 cups of cooked beans. 1 cup dried beans = 3 cups of cooked beans. 1/3 cup dried beans = 1 cup cooked beans.


Recipe 1: Pan-Fried Butter Beans & Greens - Don’t be alarmed by the words “pan” and “fried” in the same sentence! This easy recipe is delicious and good for you.


  • 2 tbsp. olive oil

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 ½ cups Violet’s Butter Beans (use fresh green beans & steam first)

  • 1 bunch mustard greens, chopped (or any of your favorite greens)

  • ¼ cup water or vegetable stock

  • salt to taste

  • black pepper to taste


1. Warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat.

2. Add the garlic to the oil, and fry until it begins to turn golden, about 30 seconds. Be very careful not to burn it.

3. Add the steamed green butter beans, and stir. Cook until they begin to brown.

4. Remove the beans with a slotted spoon, leaving as much of the garlic behind as possible. Set the beans on a plate.

5. Add the mustard greens and ¼ cup of water to the skillet, and stir. Cook until the greens are tender, about 10 minutes on medium heat.

6. Season to taste with salt—start with ¼ teaspoon—and pepper. Serve the greens topped with the pan-fried butter beans.


Recipe 2: Kawanui Farm Chili – I like to make a good amount and then freeze some for another meal at a later date.


  • 2 tbsp. of olive oil

  • 2-3 cloves of garlic minced

  • 1 large onion chopped

  • 2½ tbsp.chili powder (to taste)

  • ½ tsp. ground turmeric (Olena)

  • 1-2 tsp. ground cumin

  • 1 (15 oz.) can organic tomatoes don’t drain (or chopped fresh tomato)

  • 1/2 small can organic tomato paste (can add a little water)

  • 1 pound ground Big Island Beef or equivalent (optional)

  • 1-2 tbsp. organic molasses

  • 2 cups dry Violet’s Butter Beans cooked (makes about 6 cups cooked)

  • Salt and ground pepper to taste


1. Add the olive oil to a large soup pot or skillet and place it over medium-high heat for two minutes. Add the garlic, onion, and turmeric. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Add the ground beef to the pot. Break it apart with a wooden spoon. Cook for 6-7 minutes, until the beef is browned, stirring occasionally.

3.. Add the chili powder, cumin, tomato paste, and optional cayenne. Stir until well combined.

4. Add the diced tomatoes (with their juice), molasses and the cooked Violet’s Butter Beans. Stir well. Add salt and ground black pepper to taste.

5. Bring the ingredients to a low simmer. Then, reduce the heat (low to medium-low) to gently simmer the chili, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

6. Remove the pot from the heat. Let the chili rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

I love serving this with fresh, hot cornbread and honey-butter or brown rice and a green salad! Mahalo Ms. Violet Brady Westbrook - Bon Appetit!

Please direct all comments to I would love to hear how these beans work in your garden! The current batch of Violet's Butterbeans available on the marketplace were grown by Jacob Roberts, a young and budding farmer in Waimanalo. To purchase Violet’s Butter Beans go to

Mahalo Ms. Violet Brady Westbrook - Bon Appetite!

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