Long on Limas: LaRosa Farm and Greenhouses

New Jersey is the proud home of the largest pole lima bean grower in the country.

Carmen LaRosa inspects his delicate lima pods to see if they are ready for harvest.
Carmen LaRosa inspects his delicate lima pods to see if they are ready for harvest.
Photo courtesy of Websketching Web Design

When Carmen LaRosa planted his first crop of pole lima beans in 1980, he purchased the seeds from the Burpee Seed Company, then the largest grower of the legume. Today, Burpee buys its seeds from LaRosa. In fact, since 1986, LaRosa Farm and Greenhouses in Woodstown—operated by Carmen and his wife, Charlene—has been the largest grower of pole lima beans in the United States.

On their 32-½-acre spread, the LaRosas also raise rows of potted plants, including mums, pansies and poinsettias. Twenty-one acres are planted with their signature crop, pole limas.

Lima beans—also called butter beans or chad beans—are a fragile crop. “You can’t just put the seeds in the ground and let them grow,” says Carmen. “They’re easily affected by temperature, water and stink bugs.”

Using the original strain of seeds, 72,000 plants are placed two feet apart in rows anchored every 20 feet by 6-foot poles. The plants climb baling twine that is tied to wire strung across the top of the poles. “By August,” says LaRosa, “the fields look like vineyards.”

August through October, about 100 three-quarter-bushel baskets of the silky-smooth beans are handpicked and sorted each day. The beans are sold—freshly picked and shelled or blanched and frozen (when there is abundance)—to garden centers, roadside markets and individuals within 100 miles of the Salem County farm. “These are the best tasting pole lima beans you’ll ever eat,” LaRosa says with pride.

Want to visit? Contact the LaRosas at 856-769-2827 or visit their website.

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