A lime (from French lime, from Arabic līma, from Persian līmū, "lemon") is a hybrid citrus fruit, which is typically round, lime green, 3–6 centimetres (1.2–2.4 in) in diameter, and containing acidic juice vesicles.
There are several species of citrus trees whose fruits are called limes, including the Key lime (Citrus aurantifolia), Persian lime, kaffir lime, and desert lime. Limes are an excellent source of vitamin C, and are often used to accent the flavours of foods and beverages. They are grown year-round. Plants with fruit called "limes" have diverse genetic origins; limes do not form a monophyletic group.
Plants known as "lime"
The difficulty in identifying exactly which species of fruit are called lime in different parts of the English-speaking world (and the same problem applies to homonyms in other European languages) is increased by the botanical complexity of the citrus genus itself, to which the majority of limes belong. Species of this genus hybridise readily, and it is only recently that genetic studies have started to throw light on the structure of the genus. The majority of cultivated species are in reality hybrids, produced from the citron (Citrus medica), the mandarin orange (Citrus reticulata) and the pomelo (Citrus grandis).
- Australian limes (former Microcitrus and Eremocitrus)
- Kaffir lime (Citrus hystrix); also called a kieffer lime, makrut, or magrood; a papeda relative. This is one of three most widely produced limes globally.
- Key lime (Citrus × aurantifolia=Citrus micrantha × Citrus medica); also called Mexican, West Indian, or bartender's lime. This is also one of three most widely produced limes globally.
- Musk lime (Citrofortunella mitis), a kumquat hybrid
- Persian lime (Citrus × latifolia), with cultivars including the Tahiti and Bearss limes. This is the single most widely produced lime globally, with Mexico being the largest producer.
- Rangpur lime (Mandarin lime, lemandarin), a mandarin orange – rough lemon hybrid
- Spanish lime (Melicoccus bijugatus); also called mamoncillo, mamón, ginep, quenepa, or limoncillo); not a citrus.
- Sweet lime etc. (Citrus limetta, etc.); assorted citrus hybrids) including varieties called sweet lemon, sweet limetta or Mediterranean sweet lemon, lumia, Indian or Palestinian sweet lime.
- Wild lime (Adelia ricinella); not a citrus.
- Wild lime (Zanthoxylum fagara); not a citrus.
- Limequat (lime × kumquat)
Note that the tree species known in Britain as lime trees (Tilia sp.), called linden in other dialects of English, are broadleaf temperate plants unrelated to the citrus fruits.
Although the precise origin is uncertain, wild limes are believed to have first grown in Indonesia or Southeast Asia, and then were transported to the Mediterranean region and north Africa around 1000 CE.
To prevent scurvy during the 19th century, British sailors were issued a daily allowance of citrus, such as lemon, and later switched to lime. The use of citrus was initially a closely guarded military secret, as scurvy was a common scourge of various national navies, and the ability to remain at sea for lengthy periods without contracting the disorder was a huge benefit for the military. The British sailor thus acquired the nickname, "Limey" because of their usage of limes.
|Lemon and lime production – 2013|
|Country||Production (millions of tonnes)|
In 2013, the total world production of lemons and limes was 15.4 million tonnes, with India leading production of 2.5 million tonnes (table).
Limes have higher contents of sugars and acids than do lemons. Lime juice may be squeezed from fresh limes, or purchased in bottles in both unsweetened and sweetened varieties. Lime juice is used to make limeade, and as an ingredient (typically as sour mix) in many cocktails.
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. Lime soup is a traditional dish from the Mexican state of Yucatan. 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 Persian Gulf-style baharat (a spice mixture that is also called kabsa or kebsa).
Lime is an ingredient of many cuisines from India, and many varieties of pickles are made, e.g. sweetened lime pickle, salted pickle, and lime chutney.
Lime is an ingredient in several highball cocktails, often based on gin, such as gin and tonic, the gimlet and the Rickey. Freshly squeezed lime juice is also considered a key ingredient in margaritas, although sometimes lemon juice is substituted.
Nutrition and research
Limes, whole and in cross section
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||126 kJ (30 kcal)|
|Dietary fiber||2.8 g|
|Pantothenic acid (B5)||
|Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Raw limes are 88% water, 10% carbohydrates and less than 1% each of fat and protein (table). Only vitamin C content at 35% of the Daily Value (DV) per 100 g serving (approximately half of the lemon's content) is significant for nutrition, with other nutrients present in low DV amounts (table).
When human skin is exposed to ultraviolet light after contact with lime peel or juice, a reaction known as phytophotodermatitis can occur, which can cause darkening of the skin, swelling or blistering. Bartenders handling limes and other citrus fruits when preparing cocktails may develop phytophotodermatitis due to the high concentration of furocoumarins and other phototoxic coumarins in limes. The main coumarin in limes is limettin which has manifold higher content in peels than in pulp. Persian limes have a higher content of coumarins and potentially greater phototoxicity than do Key limes.
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