We may be small but we pack a punch in the flavour and nutrition stakes. You see we have the ability to bring out the flavour of other foods, as well as tasting great ourselves. And we're packed full of vitamin C – that's how English sailors got the nickname Limeys, because lime juice was given to them when they were at sea to stop them getting a disease called scurvy, which is caused by a lack of vitamin C. So you see, we have a lot to offer. Let me tell you more.
We're thin-skinned, glossy-green to yellow in colour, with beautiful green flesh. Round to almost egg-shaped, about 5cm long, we have a small point at one end. Inside, our flesh is divided into segments by very thin membranes; each segment containing hundreds of little translucent bags which hold our juice. We have an attractive scent and tangy acid flavour.
Our peak season is from January to April but we're generally available all year round.
Although we're not sold by variety there are two major types to be found in Australia.
West Indian lime, also called Mexican or Key lime
We're a round to oval lime, yellow in colour, with a tart flavour and distinct smell. We prefer to grow in a hotter climate than other limes.
We're oval in shape, green in colour with a subtle flavour and smell. We're seedless and much larger than the West Indian variety and grow better in colder climate. We're Australia's favourite lime and are even exported overseas.
We grow in tropical and sub-tropical climates and so are used to replace lemons in areas such as parts of Asia, Central America and in northern parts of Australia, where lemons won't grow.
We're a citrus fruit related to the orange, lemon, mandarin and grapefruit. Our parent tree is smaller (2.5-4.5 metres) and more attractive than the lemon but has all the citrus characteristics – evergreen, rounded shape with dense, glossy pale green to dark green leaves and white fragrant flowers. We form over a period of time and are picked as we mature. We are harvested by hand so that damage is minimised.
Select those of us that are glossy green and feel heavy for our size.
We're sold ripe and ready to use. Store us in a fruit bowl. Use within 7 days. Refrigerate for extended storage.
We, the Persian or Tahitian lime, have an obscure origin possibly coming from the Orient by way of Persia and the Mediterranean to Australia, South America and California in the US. We have been grown in Australia since early 1824.
Our cousin, the West Indian lime, sometimes called the true lime, originated in the Malaysian region of south-west Asia. It has been cultivated in all areas where the climate is suitabl.
As I mentioned earlier, scurvy, caused by the lack of vitamin C, was the curse of long sea voyagers because of its debilitating symptoms. The absence of fresh fruit and vegetables in the diet caused the problem and Captain Cook is said to have been the first to overcome scurvy at sea by always having limes available.
Lime trees were obtained from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, by the First Fleet on their way to Australia. It's assumed they were planted with the other citrus trees when the colonists arrived at Sydney Cove in 1788.
We're similar to lemons and can often be substituted in recipes for each other. Our skin is very thin but the zest is good for flavouring and should be grated before cutting to obtain juice or flesh.
We're very refreshing in drinks, sorbets, mixed with butter, pies, custards and with vegetables and fish. Our juice brushed over some fruits will stop them browning.
Try some of these tasty lime recipes.
Put zest and juice of 1 lime into measuring jug. Add 1 packet of lime jelly and make up to 150ml with boiling water. Allow to cool but not set. Beat 175g ricotta cheese, 50g castor sugar and 2 egg yolks until smooth. Add cooled jelly and 300ml yoghurt. Whip 2 egg whites and fold into mixture. Spoon into bowls and chill for 2 hours. Serve with lime slices and mint.
Lime and Mango Chicken
Mix 1/2 cup lime juice, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons honey, 2 cloves crushed garlic and pour over 1kg chicken fillets and 2 mangoes, peeled and sliced. Marinate 30 minutes. Barbecue chicken and mango over medium heat until cooked, brushing on extra marinade.
Lime Meringue Pie
Empty 1 can condensed milk into a bowl and stir in zest and juice of 3 limes. Slowly stir in 2 egg yolks one at a time with a wooden spoon so mixture thickens. Beat egg whites until stiff then beat in 50g sugar. Fold in 50g castor sugar. Spread lime mixture into prepared pastry case and spoon meringue mix over, forming small peaks. Bake at 150ÌC for 20-30 minutes until browned. Serve hot or cold.