Take a detour from common lemons! Yes, when life gives you limes, you can make much more than mojitos and fish tacos. Taking a hint from Latin American and Asian cuisines, limes can be used to enhance vinaigrettes, keep avocados and apples from browning, add zip to a coconut sauce, or change the flavor of your water. In addition to their slightly tart-yet-sweet taste, limes are a nutritional powerhouse packed with fiber and vitamin C. In fact, they contain so much vitamin C that in the 19th century, British sailors ate limes daily to prevent scurvy on long missions. Limes are readily available all year and keep for much longer than other types of produce. So what are you waiting for—grab a lime and get juicing!
The Persian lime is an emerald green oval about two inches long. The lighter green Key lime is more like a small golf ball. Persian limes are often sold individually, whereas Key limes are usually bagged in six- to eight-fruit bundles.
Not quite as tart as lemons but not quite as sweet as other types of citrus, limes can enhance the flavor of whatever you’re cooking. In cocktails, the acidity of a generous helping of lime juice balances the alcohol. In dishes such as guacamole or a seared white fish, a quick spritz may be all it takes to provide a fresh, bright taste without adding extra salt.
The most common lime readily available in supermarkets is the Persian (also known as Bearrs) variety. They are grown throughout the world. Key limes, also referred to as Mexican limes, are often available in larger grocery stores, specialty markets, and farmers’ markets during peak season.
It’s easy to find great limes all year long, but the peak season in both the US and Europe is mid-spring to mid-fall.
Select limes that are brilliant green, heavy, and firm, with smooth skin. The fruit should have a slight give to it when you apply gentle pressure. Some varieties are sold with leaves still attached—this is mostly for aesthetic purposes and isn’t an indicator of ripeness.
If you pick up a lime that’s hard and slightly shriveled, the juice is gone. Also, avoid fruit with brown blotches on the peel. This indicates a disease called “scald,” which gives the fruit a moldy taste.
When deciding whether to purchase organic or non-organic produce, it’s helpful to know which fruits and vegetables are most affected by pesticides. Pesticides are toxins used to kill insects, invasive plants, and fungi during the growth of produce, and are potentially dangerous to people. National and international agencies agree that prolonged exposure to specific pesticides through food consumption is a potential health risk. Additionally, some studies indicate that organic fruits and vegetables have a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals than conventionally raised produce.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an environmental health advocacy and research organization in the United States. From cosmetics to produce, water to cleaning products, EWG provides insight regarding the impact of pesticides, manufacturing practices, and product ingredients on our health and environment. EWG produces a consumer guide ranking 48 fruits and vegetables with pesticide residue. The higher the rank, the lower the residue. In this ranking, the 12 most affected fruits and vegetables belong to the “The Dirty Dozen,” and the 15 least affected are part of the “Clean Fifteen.” These lists help identify the produce that is most—and least—dramatically affected by pesticides. Spinach appears on the EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” list, which means it’s one of the most important vegetables to buy organic to avoid pesticides.
Limes do not appear on any EWG produce list, but other citrus fruits, such as oranges, grapefruit, and tangerines, rank middle to low on the list for pesticide exposure. If using limes for their juice, non-organic limes are generally considered less impacted by pesticides. If you intend to zest the lime rind, consider buying organic limes.
Limes keep on the counter for a few days or in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
If sliced, keep limes in plastic wrap and use within a day or two.
Lime juice can be frozen and stored for much longer. Set the juice in ice cube trays, and then seal the frozen cubes in plastic bags in the freezer. Use as needed.
Regardless of how the lime will be used, rinse the fruit with cool running water and use a vegetable scrubber to remove any residue.
When juicing, roll the lime firmly on the counter a few times. This breaks up some of the individual segments inside the lime and allows the juice to flow out of the lime more readily. Then, cut the lime in half, and either squeeze the fruit by hand or use a stationary dish or wand juice extractor.
Otherwise, slice limes into thin or thick wedges, or remove the fruit pulp completely from the rind, slice or dice, and add to select recipes.
This immune-system-building vitamin offers a host of benefits. Vitamin C is an important nutrient necessary for collagen production, and is essential for maintaining the integrity and function of skin and bone tissue. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant, fighting free radicals and protecting the heart, kidneys, and lungs from disease. This essential nutrient, often found in large amounts in citrus fruits and raw vegetables, may play a role in reducing systolic blood pressure and heart disease risk.
Alongside sodium and chloride, potassium is an electrolyte essential for conducting electrical reactions in the body. Potassium aids proper muscle function, digestive health, and skeletal contractions.
Iron is an essential trace mineral that transports oxygen in red blood cells from the lungs to the rest of the body, aiding energy and endurance.
Calcium is an essential mineral responsible for building dense bones and teeth, muscle contractions, neurotransmitter health, and cardiovascular health.
A mineral that plays a role in producing collagen and keeping the immune system in proper working order, copper is an essential nutrient needed by the body in small amounts. Copper may also fight against free radicals, helping to delay the aging process. Energy production is also one of the many benefits of this important mineral.
In addition to their high vitamin C content, limes are anti-inflammatory. Chronic inflammation—long-term inflammation that can last for several months and even years—takes a serious toll on the health of the body. The continuous release of free radicals as a result of chronic inflammation, significantly increases cellular damage, resulting in potential for disease and a more rapid aging process. Prevent damaging inflammation by adding limes to your diet.
Lime can also act as a substitute for salt in certain meals. When you reach for a lime instead of salt, you decrease your sodium intake. This is a particularly great trick for those suffering from high blood pressure and heart disease.
- Limes are actually yellow, like lemons, but are picked green so consumers can tell the difference between the two.
- The acid in highly concentrated lime juice can dissolve concrete.
- Despite being acidic outside the body, once digested, limes take on more of an alkaline quality.