Lime (from Arabic and French lim) is a term referring to a citrus fruit which is typically round, green, 3–6 centimetres (1.2–2.4 in) in diameter, and containing sour (acidic) pulp. There are several species of citrus trees whose fruits are called limes, including the Key lime, Persian lime, kaffir lime, and desert lime. Limes are a good source of vitamin C, and are often used to accent the flavours of foods and beverages. They are grown year-round and are usually smaller and less sour than lemons, although varieties may differ in sugar and acidic content.
Although lemons and limes may not be what you would choose for an afternoon snack, we consider them as powerhouses when we want to bring out the flavor of other foods. While both are available throughout the year, lemons are in the peak of their season around May, June and August while limes are at their peak from May through October.
Lemons are oval in shape and feature a yellow, texturized outer peel. Like other citrus fruits, their inner flesh is encased in eight to ten segments.
Usually smaller than lemons, limes are oval or round in shape having a diameter of one to two inches with green flesh and skin. They can be either sour or sweet depending on the variety; however, sweet limes are not readily available in the United States. Sour limes contain citric acid giving them an acidic and tart taste, while sweet limes lack citric acid and are sweeter in flavor.
Lemons are oval in shape and feature a yellow, texturized outer peel. Like other citrus fruits, their inner flesh is encased in segments, with the average lemon having eight to ten.
While most lemons are tart, acidic and astringent, they are also surprisingly refreshing. The two main types of sour lemons are the Eureka and the Lisbon. The Eureka generally has more texturized skin, a short neck at one end and a few seeds, while the Lisbon has smoother skin, no neck and is generally seedless. In addition to these sour lemons, there are also some varieties that are sweet in flavor. One notable example is the Meyer lemon that is becoming more popular in both markets and restaurants.
There are two general varieties of sour limes available, the Tahitian and the Key. Among Tahitian limes are the egg-shaped Persian and the smaller, seedless Bearss. Key limes, famous for the pie bearing their name, are smaller and more acidic than the Tahitian variety.
Lemons, like other vitamin-C rich fruits, were highly prized by the miners and developers during the California Gold Rush in the mid-19th century, since they were used to protect against the development of scurvy. They were in such demand that people were willing to pay up to $1 per lemon, a price that would still be considered costly today and was extremely expensive back in 1849. The major producers of lemons today are the United States, Italy, Spain, Greece, Israel and Turkey. Healthy Food - Lemon and Lime.
Limes made their way to the New World with Columbus on his second voyage in 1493, and were subsequently planted in many Caribbean countries whose hot, humid climates supported the cultivation of this fruit. Centuries later, British explorers and traders, who were readily using the vitamin C-rich limes that grew in their West Indies colonies to prevent scurvy, earned the nickname "limey," a word that is often still used colloquially for persons of British descent.
The introduction of limes to the United States began in the 16th century when Spanish Explorers brought the West Indies lime to the Florida Keys, beginning the advent of Key limes. In the following century, Spanish missionaries attempted to plant lime trees in California, but the climate did not support their growth. In great demand by the miners and explorers during the California Gold Rush as a fruit that was known to prevent scurvy, limes began to be imported from Tahiti and Mexico at this time in the mid-19th century. Today, Brazil, Mexico and the United States are among the leading commercial producers of limes.
- The 'Bonnie Brae' is oblong, smooth, thin-skinned, and seedless; mostly grown in San Diego County.
- The bush lemon tree, a naturalized lemon, grows wild in subtropical Australia. It is very hardy, and has a thick skin with a true lemon flavor; the zest is good for cooking. It grows to about 4 m in sunny locations.
- The 'Eureka' grows year-round and abundantly. This is the common supermarket lemon, also known as 'Four Seasons' (Quatre Saisons) because of its ability to produce fruit and flowers together throughout the year. This variety is also available as a plant to domestic customers.
- The 'Femminello St. Teresa', or 'Sorrento' is native to Italy. This fruit's zest is high in lemon oils. It is the variety traditionally used in the making of limoncello.
- The 'Jhambiri' (C. jhambiri), also known as rough lemon and bush lemon, has a rough skin, lemon-yellow exterior, and very sour pulp. It is widely used as a rootstock in South Asia.
- The 'Lisbon' is a good-quality bitter lemon with high juice and acid levels; the fruits of Lisbon are very similar to Eureka. The vigorous and productive trees are very thorny, particularly when young.
- The 'Meyer' is a cross between a lemon and possibly an orange or a mandarin, and was named after Frank N. Meyer, who first discovered it in 1908. Thin-skinned and slightly less acidic than the Lisbon and Eureka lemons, Meyer lemons require more care when shipping and are not widely grown on a commercial basis. Meyer lemons have a much thinner rind, and often mature to a yellow-orange color. They are slightly more frost-tolerant than other lemons.
- The 'Ponderosa' is more cold-sensitive than true lemons; the fruit are thick-skinned and very large. It is likely a citron-lemon hybrid.
- The 'Variegated Pink' is a varietal of the 'Eureka' or 'Lisbon' cultivars with variegated patterns in the foliage and the rinds of immature green fruit. Upon maturing to yellow, the variegated pattern recedes in the fruit rind. The flesh and juice are pink or pinkish-orange instead of yellow.
- The 'Verna' is a Spanish variety of unknown origin.
- The 'Yen Ben' is an Australasian cultivar.
Limonins Support Optimal Health
In animal studies and laboratory tests with human cells, compounds in citrus fruits, including lemons and limes, called limonoids have been shown to help fight cancers of the mouth, skin, lung, breast, stomach and colon. Now, scientists from the US Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have shown that our bodies can readily absorb and utilize a very long-acting limonoid called limonin that is present is citrus fruits in about the same amount as vitamin C.
In citrus fruits, limonin is present in the form of limonin glucoside, in which limonin is attached to a sugar (glucose) molecule. Our bodies easily digest this compound, cleaving off the sugar and releasing limonin. Healthy Food - Lemon and Lime
In the ARS study, 16 volunteers were given a dose of limonin glucoside in amounts ranging from those that would be found in from 1 to 7 glasses of orange juice. Blood tests showed that limonin was present in the plasma of all except one of the subjects, with concentrations highest within 6 hours after consumption. Traces of limonin were still present in 5 of the volunteers 24 hours after consumption!
Limonin's bioavailability and persistence may help explain why citrus limonoids are potent anti-carcinogens that may prevent cancerous cells from proliferating. Other natural anti-carcinogens are available for much less time; for example, the phenols in green tea and chocolate remain active in the body for just 4 to 6 hours.
The ARS team are now investigating the potential cholesterol-lowering effects of limonin. Lab tests indicate that human liver cells produce less apo B when exposed to limonin. Apo B is a structural protein that is part of the LDL cholesterol molecule and is needed for LDL production, transport and binding, so higher levels of apo B translate to higher levels of LDL cholesterol.
Phytonutrients with Antioxidant and Antibiotic Effects
Like many of the fruits and vegetables featured on our website, lemons and limes contain unique flavonoid compounds that have antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. Of special interest in limes have been flavonoids called flavonol glycosides, including many kaempferol-related molecules. While these flavonoids have been shown to stop cell division in many cancer cell lines, they are perhaps most interesting for their antibiotic effects. In several villages in West Africa where cholera epidemics had occurred, the inclusion of lime juice during the main meal of the day was determined to have been protective against the contraction of cholera. (Cholera is a disease triggered by activity of the bacteria called Vibrio cholera). Researchers quickly began to experiment with the addition of lime juice to the sauce eaten with rice, and in this role, lime juice was also found to have a strong protective effect against cholera.
Several other fascinating research studies on the healing properties of lemons and limes have shown that cell cycles including the decision a cell makes about whether to divide (called mitosis) or die (apoptosis are altered by lime juice, as are the activities of special immune cells called monocytes.
In addition to their unique phytonutrient properties, lemons and limes are an excellent source of vitamin C, one of the most important antioxidants in nature. Vitamin C is one of the main antioxidants found in food and the primary water-soluble antioxidant in the body. Vitamin C travels through the body neutralizing any free radicals with which it comes into contact in the aqueous environments in the body both inside and outside cells. Free radicals can interact with the healthy cells of the body, damaging them and their membranes, and also cause a lot of inflammation, or painful swelling, in the body. This is one of the reasons that vitamin C has been shown to be helpful for reducing some of the symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Since free radicals can damage blood vessels and can change cholesterol to make it more likely to build up in artery walls, vitamin C can be helpful for preventing the development and progression of atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease.
Vitamin C is also vital to the function of a strong immune system. The immune system's main goal is to protect you from illness, so a little extra vitamin C may be useful in conditions like colds, flus, and recurrent ear infections.
Owing to the multitude of vitamin C's health benefits, it is not surprising that research has shown that consumption of vegetables and fruits high in this nutrient is associated with a reduced risk of death from all causes including heart disease, stroke and cancer.
Protection against Rheumatoid Arthritis
While one study suggests that high doses of supplemental vitamin C makes osteoarthritis, a type of degenerative arthritis that occurs with aging, worse in laboratory animals, another indicates that vitamin C-rich foods, such as lemons and limes, provide humans with protection against inflammatory polyarthritis, a form of rheumatoid arthritis involving two or more joints.
The findings, presented in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases were drawn from a study of more than 20,000 subjects who kept diet diaries and were arthritis-free when the study began, and focused on subjects who developed inflammatory polyarthritis and similar subjects who remained arthritis-free during the follow-up period. Subjects who consumed the lowest amounts of vitamin C-rich foods were more than three times more likely to develop arthritis than those who consumed the highest amounts.
How to Select and Store
One of the tricks to finding a good quality lemon is to find one that is rather thin-skinned since those with thicker peels will have less flesh and therefore be less juicy. Therefore, choose lemons that are heavy for their size and that feature peels that have a finely grained texture. They should be fully yellow in color as those that have green tinges will be more acidic due to the fact that they have not fully ripened. Signs of overmature fruit include wrinkling, soft or hard patches and dull coloring. Fresh lemons are available all year round.
Lemons will stay fresh kept at room temperature, away from exposure to sunlight, for about one week. If you will not be using them within this time period, you can store the lemons in the refrigerator crisper where they will keep for about four weeks.
Lemon juice and zest can also be stored for later use. Place freshly squeezed lemon juice in ice cube trays until frozen, subsequently storing them in plastic bags in the freezer. Dried lemon zest should be stored in a cool and dry place in an airtight glass container. Healthy Food - Lemon and Lime.
Choose limes that are firm and heavy for their size, free of decay and mold. They should have a glossy skin that is deep green in color; although limes turn more yellow as they ripen, they are at the height of their lively, tart flavor when they are green in color. While brown spots on the skin of limes may not affect their color, limes that are mostly brownish in color should be avoided since this may be an indication that they have "scald" which may cause them to have an undesirable moldy taste. Limes are available in the marketplace throughout the year, although they are usually in greater supply from mid-spring through mid-fall.
Limes can be kept out at room temperature where they will stay fresh for up to one week. Make sure to keep them away from sunlight exposure since it will cause them to turn yellow and will alter their flavor. Limes can be stored in the refrigerator crisper, wrapped in a loosely sealed plastic bag, where they will keep fresh for about 10-14 days. While they can be kept longer than that, for another several weeks, they will begin to lose their characteristic flavor.
Lime juice and zest can also be stored for later use. Place freshly squeezed lime juice in ice cube trays until frozen, subsequently storing them in plastic bags in the freezer. Dried lime zest should be stored in a cool and dry place in an airtight glass container.
Lemon juice is also used as a short-term preservative on certain foods that tend to oxidize and turn brown after being sliced (enzymatic browning), such as apples, bananas, and avocados, where its acid denatures the enzymes.
Lemon juice and rind are used to make marmalade and lemon liqueur. Lemon slices and lemon rind are used as a garnish for food and drinks. Lemon zest, the grated outer rind of the fruit, is used to add flavor to baked goods, puddings, rice, and other dishes.
Preserved lemons are a part of Moroccan cuisine. They are also one of the main ingredients in many Indian cuisines. Either lemon pickle or mango pickle is part of everyday lunches in Southern India.
The leaves of the lemon tree are used to make a tea and for preparing cooked meats and seafoods.
Lime extracts and lime essential oils are frequently used in perfumes, cleaning products, and aromatherapy.
In India, the lime is used in Tantra for removing evil spirits. It is also combined with Indian chillies to make a protective charm to repel the evil eye. Furthermore, it was believed that hanging limes over sick people cured them of the illness by repelling evil spirits lurking inside the body. Lime pickles are an integral part of Indian Cuisine. South Indian cuisine is so heavily based on lime that having either lemon pickle or lime pickle is considered a must of Onam Sadhya.
Lemons were the primary commercial source of citric acid before the development of fermentation-based processes. Healthy Food - Lemon and Lime
As a cleaning agent
The juice of the lemon may be used for cleaning. A halved lemon dipped in salt or baking powder is used to brighten copper cookware. The acid dissolves the tarnish and the abrasives assist the cleaning. As a sanitary kitchen deodorizer the juice can deodorize, remove grease, bleach stains, and disinfect; when mixed with baking soda, it removes stains from plastic food storage containers. The oil of the lemon's peel also has various uses. It is used as a wood cleaner and polish, where its solvent property is employed to dissolve old wax, fingerprints, and grime. Lemon oil and orange oil are also used as a nontoxic insecticide treatment.
A halved lemon is used as a finger moistener for those counting large amounts of bills, such as tellers and cashiers.
Lemon oil may be used in aromatherapy. Lemon oil aroma does not influence the human immune system, but may enhance mood. The low pH of juice makes it antibacterial, and in India, the lemon is used in Indian traditional medicines (Siddha medicine and Ayurveda).
One educational science experiment involves attaching electrodes to a lemon and using it as a battery to produce electricity. Although very low power, several lemon batteries can power a small digital watch. These experiments also work with other fruits and vegetables. Lemon juice is also sometimes used as an acid in educational science experiments. Lemon juice may be used as a simple invisible ink, developed by heat.
Many plants taste or smell similar to lemons.
- Certain cultivars of basil
- Cymbopogon (lemongrass)
- Lemon balm, a mint-like herbaceous perennial in the Lamiaceae family
- Two varieties of scented geranium: Pelargonium crispum (lemon geranium) and Pelargonium x melissinum (lemon balm)
- Lemon myrtle, an Australian bush food, has recently become a popular alternative to lemons. The crushed and dried leaves and edible essential oils have a strong, sweet lemon taste, but contain no citric acid. Lemon myrtle is popular in foods that curdle with lemon juice, such as cheesecake and ice cream.
- Lemon thyme
- Lemon verbena
- Limes, another common sour citrus fruit, used similarly to lemons
- Certain cultivars of mint
- Magnolia grandiflora tree flowers
- Several cultivars of hybrid tea roses
Tips for Preparing and Cooking
Tips for Preparing Lemon and Limes
Lemons and limes are often called for in recipes in the form of juice. As they will produce more juice when warmer, always juice them when they are at room temperature or place them in a bowl of warm water for several minutes. Rolling them under the palm of your hand on a flat surface will also help to extract more juice.
Before cutting the lemon or lime in half horizontally through the center, wash the skin so that any dirt or bacteria residing on the surface will not be transferred to the fruit's interior. While you could remove any visible seeds before juicing the halves, you could also wait until after the process is complete, since there are bound to be some seeds that reside deeper and are not visible from the surface. The juice can then be extracted in a variety of ways. You can either use a juicer, reamer or do it the old fashioned way, squeezing by hand.
If your recipe calls for lemon or lime zest, make sure that you use fruit that is organically grown since most conventionally grown fruits will have pesticide residues on their skin. After washing and drying the lemon or lime, use a zester, paring knife or vegetable peeler to remove the zest, which is the colored part of the peel. Make sure not to remove too much of the peel as the white pith underneath is bitter and should not be used. The zest can then be more finely chopped or diced if necessary.
How to Enjoy
A Few Quick Serving Ideas
Place thinly sliced lemons, peel and all, underneath and around fish before cooking. Baking or broiling will soften the slices so that they can be eaten along with the fish.
Combine lemon juice with olive or flax oil, freshly crushed garlic and pepper to make a light and refreshing salad dressing.
If you are watching your salt intake (and even if you are not), serve lemon wedges with meals as their tartness makes a great salt substitute.
Combine freshly squeezed lime juice, evaporated cane juice and either plain or sparkling water to make limeade.
Add an-easy-to-prepare zing to dinner tonight by tossing seasoned cooked brown rice with garden peas, chicken pieces, scallions, pumpkin seeds, lime juice and lime zest.
Squeeze some lime juice onto an avocado quarter and eat as is.
In cooking, lime is valued both for the acidity of its juice and the floral aroma of its zest. It is a common ingredient in authentic Mexican, Vietnamese and Thai dishes. It is also used for its pickling properties in ceviche. Some guacamole recipes call for lime juice.
The use of dried limes (called black lime or loomi) as a flavouring is typical of Persian cuisine and Iraqi cuisine, as well as in Gulf-style baharat (a spice mixture that is also called kabsa or kebsa).
Lime is an essential ingredient of any cuisine from India, and many varieties of pickles are made, e.g. sweetened lime pickle, salted pickle, and lime chutney.
Lime leaves are also used as a herb in South, East, and Southeast Asia. Lime is frequently used to add flavour to cold and hot drinks, including water, tonic and other cocktails.
Key lime gives the character flavouring to the American dessert known as Key lime pie. In Australia, desert lime is used for making marmalade.
Lemon and Lime Peels and Oxalates
The peels of lemons and limes are among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates, naturally-occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings. When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems. For this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating lemon or lime peels. Laboratory studies have shown that oxalates may also interfere with absorption of calcium from the body. Yet, in every peer-reviewed research study we've seen, the ability of oxalates to lower calcium absorption is relatively small and definitely does not outweigh the ability of oxalate-containing foods to contribute calcium to the meal plan. If your digestive tract is healthy, and you do a good job of chewing and relaxing while you enjoy your meals, you will get significant benefits—including absorption of calcium—from calcium-rich foods plant foods that also contain oxalic acid. Ordinarily, a healthcare practitioner would not discourage a person focused on ensuring that they are meeting their calcium requirements from eating these nutrient-rich foods because of their oxalate content. For more on this subject, please see "Can you tell me what oxalates are and in which foods they can be found?"
Lemons and Limes and Wax Coatings
Conventionally grown lemons and limes may be waxed to protect them from bruising during shipping. Plant, insect, animal or petroleum-based waxes may be used. Carnauba palm is the most common plant-source wax. Other compounds, such as ethyl alcohol or ethanol, are added to the waxes for consistency, milk casein (a protein linked to milk allergy) for "film formers" and soaps for flowing agents. Since you may not be able to determine the source of these waxes, this is another good reason to choose organically grown lemons and limes.
Lemons and limes are excellent sources of vitamin C and a good source of folate.