rarely consumed on their own, limes make a major contribution to the
flavours of many of the foods we eat. These flavour packed fruits are
also loaded with vitamin C, which among its other health promoting virtues
also prevents a disease called scurvy. In the 18th century, the Royal
Navy ordered ships going on long journeys to carry limes for their crew
(hence the nickname "limeys" for British sailors), although,
at the time, it was not understood exactly how the fruit prevented scurvy.
It wasn't until vitamin C was discovered in 1932 that scientists understood
that it was the vitamin, not the fresh fruit itself, that protected
against the disease.
from supplying substantial amounts of vitamin C, the main benefits of
limes relate to their seasoning potential. Slightly sweet, tangy lime
juice and lime zest can help you cut down on the amount of salt you
add to dishes you prepare. They also enhance the flavour of foods such
as rice, potatoes, salads, and cooked vegetables while adding no fat
and only negligible calories.
probably originated on the Indian subcontinent. It seems likely that
limes (and lemons) were popularised in Europe at the time of the Crusades,
and Columbus may have taken the seeds of both fruits to the New World
on one of his voyages. Citrus fruits, including lemons and limes, were
established in what is now Florida in the 16th century.
Limes should be firm, glossy, and bright. They should be dark green:
Limes turn from green to yellow as they ripen, but it's the immature
fruits that have the desirably tart juice; yellowish limes have an insipid
A very coarse exterior may indicate
an excessively thick skin, which in turn may mean less flesh and juice;
heavy fruits with fine-grained skin are juiciest. Avoid both hard, shriveled
limes as well as spongy, soft ones.
While lemons will keep for about two weeks without refrigeration, limes
are more perishable and should be refrigerated immediately. Limes stored
in a plastic bag in the refrigerator will keep for up to six weeks.
To get the most juice from a lime, the fruit should be at room temperature
or warmer; if need be, place it in hot water to warm it, or microwave
it for 15 to 30 seconds. Then roll the fruit under your palm on the
countertop until it feels softened.
There are lots of gadgets for juicing
citrus fruits—juicers onto which you press the fruit, reamers
you twist into the fruit—but it's simplest to halve the fruit
and squeeze it in your hand. If you don't need all the juice at once,
you can pierce the fruit with a toothpick and squeeze the juice from
the opening; "reseal" the fruit by reinserting the toothpick.
Recipes often call for lime zest—the
flavorful colored part of the peel. Wash and dry the fruit, then use
the fine side of a hand grater, a special zesting tool, a sharp paring
knife, or a vegetable peeler to remove the zest. When grating or paring
the zest from a lime, do not include any of the bitter white pith along
A large lime will provide 2 to 3 tablespoons
of juice and 1 to 2 teaspoons of zest.