“The discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a new star.” – Anthelme Brillat-Savarin in his Physiology of Taste had a point, but if so, finding new food type must have equalled the discovery of a new solar system that outshone a mere star by light years. Imagine life without limes – whilst we all know that they’ve been around for a very long time, the first taste must have been something really special. They’re rich in vitamin C, vitamin P & calcium and help to digest protein-rich foods. They balance the pH levels, providing calcium
and phosphorous to strengthen the bones, teeth, blood and nervous system and are used in neurasthenia with excellent results. Limes prevent nervous indigestion and halitosis (often the result of digestive system inbalances) and cleanse and whiten discoloured teeth. (Some people find limes useful for keeping breath sweet and therefore drink the juice, sweetened with honey & diluted with water, before or between meals and before going to bed. It’s also good for sore throats and colds, especially if
pineapple juice is added to it. They are the smallest citrus fruits and originated in southern China, eastern India and the islands north of Australia. There seems to be some confusion about the date of first cultivation because Indian documentation doesn’t differentiate between the various citrus fruits which is why its’ all a bit of a mystery, really. An Indian medical document, dated around 100 AD calls both lemon and lime a ‘jambira‘, but the Arabs started differentiating between lemons and limes. The first time it was mentioned in the West, was by Sir Thomas Herbert in 1677 when he confirmed that it could be found near the coast of Mozambique. Lemons are the most important sour citrus fruits in the subtropics and limes in the tropics, but the most acid lime, has 1½ as much acid as a lemon of the same weight – however, it must be remembered that there are sweet ones as well. Limes are divided into three main categories
TAHITI, BEARSS LIME, PERSIAN LIME (C. latifolia)
These limes the frost or the cold and are the ‘dumb blondes’ of limes because they’re really only grown for ornamental purposes. They have stunning blossoms and their foliage is thick and dense. The fruit is quite big and is oval shaped with a thin peel and pale green seedless flesh. The juice is quite acid and peppery and it’s been grown in California since 1875. The fruit is quite possibly a hybrid and a combination between the citron and a common lime (even though the peel is thin and the peel of a citron as thick as they come). It is known as the Persian lime for some obscure reason because it’s quite unknown in Iran and it’s also known as the Tahiti lime because it reached the United States via Tahiti. Both become a greenish yellow when they are ripe but are best eaten green. There are two varieties and both of them are grown in California;
- The Persian (is oval and egg-sized)
- The Bearss (is seedless and larger than the Persian and has only been grown in the United States recently)
KEY LIME, WEST INDIAN LIME, MEXICAN LIME, KAGHZI NIMBU (India), GALLEGO LIME (Brazil), LIMUN BALADI (Egypt), DOC (Morocco), SHIRAZI (Iran) (C. aurantifolia)
These tiny limes (also known as the true limes) thrive in hot semi-, sub- and tropical areas and can be grown throughout the year. It’s a true lime and was exported to America from Asia around the 16th century by the Portuguese and the Spaniards who colonized the United States. It was already growing in the Iberian Peninsula due to the Arabs who occupation of the area and by 1889 they were already growing in the Florida Keys. They are round to oval and the thin green peel has a very unique aroma and it’s juicy with a few seeds and an acid flavour. They are related to the Mexican and West Indian lime that were cultivated for thousands of years in the Indo-Malayan regions and made their way to North Africa and the Near East via Arab traders who were indirectly responsible for their journey, via Palestine, to Mediterranean Europe in the hands of the Crusaders. It was only when Christopher Columbus brought them to Haiti that they were transported to Florida by the Spanish settlers. And so the world goes round! Before Hurricane Andrew arrived in 1992, 90% of all United States limes were grown in Florida, more particularly the Florida Keys in the South.
KEY LIME PIE
- 375 g digestive biscuits, crushed
- 570ml thick cream
- 400 g sweetened condensed milk
- 150 g butter
- 8 large limes, zest and juice
- Melt the butter in a small pot and stir in crushed digestive biscuits.
- Press this into the base of a 23 cm deep loosed-bottomed flan tin (fluted looks nice).
- Refrigerate this while you are making the filling.
- Pour the lime juice into a large bowl, adding both the cream and the condensed milk, whisking for about 2 minutes so that everything is well incorporated.
- Add the lime zest and stir.
- Pour this into the prepared biscuit crust and put onto a tray to refrigerate for 2 hours.
- Decorate with crystallized lime zest and serve.
INDIAN SWEET, PALESTINE SWEET, MITHA NIMBOO (Hindi), LIMUN HELOU/LIMUN SUCCARI (Egypt) (Citrus limettioides)
These are grown chiefly in India where it originated but also thrives throughout the Mediterranean regions. It’s a hybrid of four different species and has a lower sugar content than the acid limes even though it has no acidity. Curiously it’s used as rootstock most of the time and has a yellow peel with a pale yellow but aromatic flesh and almost no seeds. Even though it’s a juicy fruit, the fact that it has such a low acid content makes it an acquired taste. I have some growing in the garden on the farm and have never quite got used to them even though the rest of the family love them.
OTHER LESSER KNOWN LIMES
- Philippine lime
- Spanish lime (Melicocca bijuga) are not limes even though they taste similar.
- Kaffir limes aren’t true limes
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT LIMES
- Limes never grew in the Mediterranean countries because they simply weren’t tough enough – they do, however, grow in Egypt and more prolifically than lemons.
- Like lemons, most limes became prolific in the New World soon after their introduction (excluding the species that had been growing in Mexico, see above);
- Unlike lemons, limes grow in the tropics and are essential in the cooking of many countries – South-East Asian, Mexican, Latin American and Caribbean cooking.
- Even though limes will turn orange if they’re left on trees long enough, they are picked when they are green.
- In India one finds a small sweet lime with a greenish-yellow rind, non-acidic juice, a thin, green skin but a highly aromatic acidy flesh!
- Basically limes are divided into the following categories:
This sweet lime looks like lemons but they aren’t so sour. The mild, sweet juice tastes like home-made lemonade juice – there are three kinds of limettas – all of them with the typical “nipple” on one end with a furrow round it. The Millsweet is grown chiefly in Italy and California and is the most common. They aren’t usually available commercially, but occasionally fruit importers will included them in a fruit consignment. They are also grown on a small scale in India and around the Mediterranean.
There are three kinds that can be divided into the:
- Rangpur (a lemon and mandarin hybrid, native to India). The fruit resembles a mandarin and the juice is often added to mandarin juice in India to improve the flavour. Interestingly the rangpur is most famous for the absolutely mouthwatering marmalade made from it – loads more tasty than that from Seville oranges. They are usually found in India, California, Australia and Hawaii – but also grown for ornamental purposes in Europe, America and India.
- Kusaie is probably a form of rangpur, but is more limelike in aroma. The tree fruits continuously and grows well in Hawaii and Trinidad – they are little known elsewhere.
- Otaheite/Otaheite Rangpur, round and almost 4 cm wide with perfumed purple flowers are sold in the USA near the end of the year when they flower and fruit at the same time, are the non-acid form of rangpur. The origin is unknown, but were introduced to Tahiti from France via England and, from there, they went to San Francisco.
- Melicocca bijuga, (as they are known in Florida) are not a limes at all, but have a similar flavour.
Lime flowers come from any number of trees belonging to the European lime or Linden tree of the Basswood or Linden family. They are dried to make lime tea, popular in France, Spain and elsewhere for the relaxing properties. They are also used in ice creams and similar confections. A French chemist discovered that a paste made from the fruits and flowers of the Linden was a perfect substitute in taste and texture for chocolate, except that it would not keep. Lime flowers are also loved by bees, who in turn, make an excellent honey well-liked by humans.
VIETNAMESE PRAWN AND MANGO SALAD
- 12 green king prawns
- 1 small head iceberg or butter lettuce
- 500 ml bean sprouts
- 3 lebanese cucumbers, sliced
- 1 green mango, (slightly under-ripe)
- 3 large mint, sprigs
- 2 Vietnamese mint, sprigs (available in Asian groceries)
- 1 tablespoon shelled peanuts, chopped
- 2 limes, finely sliced
- 1 tablespoon lemon grass, chopped finely
- 250 ml lime juice
- 125 ml fish sauce
- 125 ml palm sugar
- 2 red chillies, remove seeds and chop finely
- 1 clove garlic, peel and chop finely
- Remove heads and shell prawns.
- Separate lettuce leaves, wash, dry.
- Rinse bean sprouts, trim off straggly tails and peel and slice mango.
- Arrange vegetables and herbs onto a serving dish and refrigerate until you need it.
For the dressing
- Combine all ingredients and set aside.
- Bring pot of water to good simmer.
- Plunge the prawns into the water for 1 minute only.
- Turn off heat and allow prawns to stand for another minute.
- Drain and allow the prawns cool down.
- To serve, combine prawns, mango and herbs in a bowl with the dressing.
- Put the lettuce leaves, bean sprouts and cucumber slices on serving plate.
- Arrange the combined mixture of prawns, mango and herbs and finish by topping with the peanuts.
- Serve with sliced limes
FRESH LIME FRUIT SALAD DRESSING
This is an unusual and very refreshing dressing that can turn fruit into something really good to be eaten with a barbecue!
Ingredients for dressing
- 500 ml sour cream
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 2 teaspoons grated lime peel
To make the fruit dish
- Use assorted fresh fruit (like apple wedges, banana slices, grapes, strawberries – or blueberries and melon)
- Stir together all dressing ingredients in small bowl and combine with the fruit.
- Cover, refrigerate at least 30 minutes and serve.