A small green citrus fruit providing juice or peel that is added to food dishes for a refreshing, tart flavor. It is the smallest of the citrus fruit family. The flavor of a lime is stronger and more tart than a lemon, but in most cases they are interchangeable in recipes. Limes are round or oval in shape, ranging from 1 to 2 inches in diameter, and most often have a green outer skin. The limes are picked while they are still green, before they are completely mature. When completely mature, the limes are more yellowish in color and they have lost their fresh tart flavor. The flesh is greenish-yellow in color and is generally contained in 8 to 10 segments. As in other citrus fruit, there is a layer of pith beneath the outer skin.
There are sweet and sour limes but the sweet limes are not readily available in the North America. There are several varieties of limes, which vary in size and shape. Some varieties contain seeds and some are seedless. They are very high in vitamin C and low in calories.
How to use:
Limes are rarely eaten raw due to their tartness but are used to flavor many sweet and savory dishes. They can be used in basically the same manner as lemons but are stronger in flavor so generally a smaller amount is required. They are used in sauces or as an accompaniment to fish and poultry. Lime juice and lime zest will enhance the flavor of fruits, vegetables, salads, and other dishes without adding fat or a lot of calories. It also allows less salt to be used. Limes are also used in baked goods and desserts to provide a light, fresh flavor. They are used in the famous Key Lime pie. They are also used as a garnish, in the form of a slice or wedge added to the plate or to the rim of a beverage glass. Lime juice is used in several popular alcoholic beverages, such as margaritas and daiquiris. Lime zest (the green part of the peel) is also used to add flavor when cooking and baking.
Besides adding flavor, limes are used for other purposes when preparing food. Their high content of vitamin C is the ascorbic acid needed to prevent the discoloring of the flesh of fruits and vegetables that oxidize quickly when exposed to the oxygen in the air. Lime juice makes a great meat tenderizer and marinade.
The high content of vitamin C in limes provides health related benefits. Lemons and limes were used back in the 18th century on British Navy ships to prevent and treat scurvy among the sailors. Limes are used as an ingredient in suntan products, cosmetics, perfumes and other beauty products. Lime juice is also used as a cleaning agent.
At their best: Limes are available throughout the year but their peak season is May through October. Key limes are not readily available as are the Tahitian limes. They may only be found seasonally or in specialty markets.
How to buy: Select limes that are bright green in color and have a shine to their skin, realizing that sometimes they have been coated with wax, which will also give them a shine. They should feel firm and heavy for their size, because heavy limes will produce the most juice. Select limes with thin skins, avoiding the thicker skinned fruit, which is an indication of less flesh and juice. Avoid limes that are pale green and are showing signs of yellowing, which is an indication that the limes are getting close to being fully ripe. Fully ripe limes will have lost their acidity and will be bland in flavor compared to bright green tart limes. Select those that are fairly smooth skinned, free of blemishes and do not have soft or hard spots. Small brown spots on the limes does not indicate that there is a lose of juiciness or flavor, but if the limes are mostly brown in color, that may be an indication of scald, which will cause the fruit to have a moldy flavor. Avoid limes with shriveled skin or that feel spongy, which is a sign of old fruit that will have lost a lot of its juiciness.
Storage: Limes will perish the quickest of any of the citrus fruits, so it is important that they are stored properly. Fresh limes can be stored at room temperature for up to a week if kept out of the direct sunlight. If they are not going to be used within a week, place them in a plastic bag and store them in the refrigerator where they will stay fresh for 2 weeks. After 2 weeks, they may not be spoiled but they will begin to lose their tart flavor. If limes have been cut open, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days. Leftover fresh squeezed juice can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Lime juice and zest can be stored for longer period of time by freezing them. Do not freeze whole limes. Place grated zest in an airtight freezer bag or container and store in the freezer. Freeze lime juice in ice cube trays until solid and then place in airtight freezer bags or containers and store in the freezer. To make it easier to know how many frozen cubes to use for a recipe, it is a good idea to measure the juice when placing in the ice cube tray. That way you will know the amount contained in each cube.
Thai cooks use these golf ball-sized limes to give their dishes a unique aromatic flavor. Kaffir limes have very little juice, usually just the zest is used.
These are smaller and more acidic than the more common Persian limes.