What's in Season

Cooking with Butter Beans

The sweet, creamy butter bean makes the perfect summer side

Illustration: John Burgoyne

The next time you’re driving down a country road on a steamy July day and spot someone selling vegetables from a cooler, do yourself a favor and pull over. If you’re lucky, you’ll find bags of fresh-picked butter beans inside. The season lasts only about three weeks because farmers harvest their entire crop at once— sometime between June and August—so stock up while you can. “When I was a kid, my grandparents grew butter beans,” says Jeff McInnis, the Florida-bred chef at Yardbird in Miami. “We’d harvest and cook them then and there.” Not to be confused with limas (their more tart green cousin), butter beans are generally creamy white in color, and sweet and smooth when cooked. Also known as sieva or Dixie beans, they’ve been a staple of the Southern table since the 1700s, anchoring everything from stews to succotash. At Yardbird, McInnis simply boils his in salted water, and then serves them with olive oil and lemon zest alongside whatever is fresh from the sea. “People talk about favas and all these fancy beans, but the butter bean is really unmatched,” he says. “You don’t have to do much to make it taste great.”