...at least in my limited experience...are an heirloom variety called speckled butter beans, AKA Alabama Christmas limas. Gorgeous beans, spotted like Ponies of the Americas, that live up to their superficial beauty.
I first read about them a long time ago, when I received Deborah Madison's The Vegetarian Table: America as a gift. She included a recipe for them that she'd found in an old community cookbook called Treasured Alabama Recipes. I never thought I'd happen upon these elusive beans in person.
But then recently, at a small Greensboro grocery called Moon's, I spotted them (no pun intended). They were sold under the brand name China Doll, packaged in Mobile.
From the amount of time it has taken me to cook them into submission, I estimate these beans have been sitting on the grocery shelf for quite a while. They were originally intended for last night's dinner. I brought them to a boil in the morning, turned off the heat, soaked them all day, and then cooked them for upwards of two hours. Still hard. So I figured out another side dish for my pork chops and stuck the stubborn limas in the fridge.
In the morning I started cooking them again. Now they are finally ready.
And...oh! Oh, my. Oh, my, my. Simmered with a few aromatics and some butter, salt, and pepper (which I added a day and a half ago, faithful to Madison's suggestions), they have become decadent in their savoriness.
And no, I can't believe I'm using superlatives like these to describe beans. But they are really that special.