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Exploring Limes: Recipes to Help You Harness the Power of Sour

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Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

This article explores the amazing things you can make with limes!

This article explores the amazing things you can make with limes!

"The lime trees were in bloom. But in the early morning only a faint fragrance drifted through the garden, an airy message, an aromatic echo of the dreams during the short summer night."

— Isak Dinesen

What Do You Dream Of?

What is the stuff of your dreams? What images fill your daytime reverie or invade your thoughts during sleep? Perhaps you drift to far-away places—strolling on white-sand beaches glistening below azure skies. Maybe you envision hiking in wildflower-strewn alpine meadows beneath sapphire-blue glaciers. I have a friend whose thoughts drift to sailing across a tranquil sea—destination “nowhere." My husband’s passion would be pushing it to the limit on a switch-back road with the top down on the Miata.

I dream of food, or more specifically, I dream of cooking food.

Here Are a Few of the Foods That Fill My Dreams

  • Light and delicate cream scones—triangle-shaped breakfast pastries studded with fresh blackberries and drizzled with a lime zest glaze.
  • A salad of bright red tomatoes, creamy avocado, and sweet cooked shrimp drizzled with a tangy cilantro-lime vinaigrette.
  • Chicken thighs simmered to mahogany perfection in a sweet/savory sauce of brown sugar, soy sauce, and lime juice.
  • A luxuriant cream pie—the graham cracker crust is buttery, the filling a delicate shade of green, sweet, creamy, and tart with the juice of key lime.

We’ve covered all of the bases—breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. And what is the common thread? All of them are flavored with and enhanced by lime.

Meet the Family

In researching this article, I learned that the lime plant is extremely adaptable and hybridizes easily—that’s good news (unless, of course, you are a horticulturalist or food historian). Daniel Stone explains it this way in the February 2017 issue of National Geographic:

“So many cultivated species have come from so few primary ancestors. Just three, in fact: citrons, pomelos, and mandarins, all native to South and East Asia before they started their journeys west. Such simple lineage is the result of impressive commonality. Almost all citrus has the rare genetic combination of being sexually compatible and highly prone to mutation. Such traits allow their genes to mix, for thousands of years on their own, and eventually, at the hands of humans. The product of so much natural crossing in the wild and selective breading at research farms and in field is every orange, lemon, lime, and grapefruit you’ve ever eaten.”

Many think that the lime originated in Malaysia; those first fruits were the C. aurantifolia, the one we identify as the key lime. From there it gradually migrated westward from China, India, and Southeast Asia to the kingdom of the Medes and the Persian Empire.

In 711 A.D., limes were introduced to Europe but under less than ideal circumstances. It was in that year that the Moors, under the leadership of Tariq ibn-Ziyad, crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and invaded Spain.

“The reins of their horses were as fire, their faces black as pitch, their eyes shone like burning candles, their horses were swift as leopards and the riders fiercer than a wolf in a sheepfold at night. . .The noble Goths, the German rulers of Spain to whom Roderick belonged were broken in an hour, quicker than tongue can tell. Oh luckless Spain!”

The Moors brought with them not only their religion but numerous cultural and scientific influences. We can thank them for a unique language refined with over 4,000 Arabic words and phrases, including algebra, the concept of zero, the guitar, flamenco dance, irrigation, and an enriched cuisine—can you imagine a Spanish table without chickpeas, dried fruits, almonds, and the limon?

They Moved to America

There are several theories on how the lime (actually limes, lemons, and oranges) were introduced to the Americas, the West Indies to be exact. Some believe that Christopher Columbus brought them to Hispanola—other food historians point to the Spanish Conquistadores.

What is known is that Henry Perrine was appointed as United States Consul in Campeche, Mexico in 1827. Shortly after he arrived at his post, he received a letter from the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. President John Quincy Adams wanted an accounting of all plants in the territory that were (1) beneficial and (2) could be cultivated in the United States. Perrine was no stranger to horticulture and research. It was his study of quinine that led to the advancement of its use in the treatment of malaria. He collected numerous samples, filling more than 100 boxes. By now you’ve probably guessed that one of the plants he selected was the lime.

There Are Many Varieties

There are numerous varieties of limes; many of them hybrids (a cross of the lime with other citrus fruits). They vary in size, flavor, and acidity and so have different uses in cooking and baking. Here’s a chart to explain.

Lime Varieties

VarietyCharacteristicsUses

Australian finger lime (Microcitrus australasica)

Cylindrical, bumpy (looks like a cucumber). Flesh looks like caviar.

Garnish

Bearss (aka Persian) lime (C. latifolia

Large oval shape, seedless, less acidic

All-purpose fruit for cooking and baking

Kaffir lime (C. hustrix)

Distinctive bumpy skin, extremely tart, low amount of juice

Only the rind is used for flavoring and pickling

Key lime (C. aurantiifolia)

Small, round, strongly acidic and aromatic; many seeds and thorns

Cooking, baking, cocktails

Rangpur (aka Mandarin) lime (C. jambhiri lush.)

Looks like a small orange

Marmalade

A Little Bit of Trivia

In the 1800s the British navy began to include limes in their rations to prevent scurvy (a Vitamin C deficiency that causes bleeding gums, tooth loss, anemia, and the inability of wounds to heal). Lemons were also used, but limes became the preferred fruit because they have a lower amount of sugar and so don’t ferment quite as easily. Because finding a way to prevent scurvy was so important, the daily citrus allowance was a closely guarded military secret. There’s no doubt this is why British sailors were eventually dubbed “Limeys.”

Blackberry lime scones

Blackberry lime scones

Blackberry Lime Scones

This recipe for blackberry lime scones is rich and buttery; the blackberries keep the bread moist and the lime adds a bright pop of flavor. The tang of lime zest is a perfect counterpoint to the sweet sugar glaze.

Strawberry lime muffins

Strawberry lime muffins

Strawberry Lime Muffins

These strawberry lime muffins are a little sweet, a little sour, and promise a pop of flavor in every bite. They are quick to mix up—just five minutes from bowl to oven, and in less than one-half hour you can have these breakfast/brunch treats ready for your family.

Shrimp, avocado, and tomato salad with spicy cilantro-lime dressing

Shrimp, avocado, and tomato salad with spicy cilantro-lime dressing

Shrimp, Avocado, and Tomato Salad with Spicy Cilantro-Lime Dressing

This summer salad is light, bright and bursting with flavor. Briny shrimp, creamy avocado, and sweet ripe red tomatoes make a satisfying light meal when paired with homemade tortilla chips and spicy cilantro-lime dressing.

Southwestern chopped salad with cilantro dressing

Southwestern chopped salad with cilantro dressing

Southwestern Chopped Salad With Cilantro Dressing

Here's another salad idea that is vegetarian/vegan and gluten-free. Kaitlin dresses colorful beans and fresh, crisp vegetables with a creamy cilantro dressing; fresh lime juice makes it tangy and bright.

Crispy cilantro lime chicken

Crispy cilantro lime chicken

Crispy Cilantro Lime Chicken

Crispy cilantro lime chicken is juicy on the inside, golden and crisp on the outside, cooked in mouth-watering flavorful pan drippings! There are many cilantro lime chicken recipes out there, but in my book crispy skin wins every time.

Cilantro lime honey garlic salmon

Cilantro lime honey garlic salmon

Cilantro Lime Honey Garlic Salmon

This cilantro lime salmon is baked in foil so that you can have:

  • Easy cleanup
  • Moist, perfectly cooked salmon
  • Bold flavors in every bite
  • Quick-cooking—only 30 minutes from oven to table
No-bake key lime pie

No-bake key lime pie

No-Bake Key Lime Pie

This creamy-tangy key lime pie is a perfect summertime dessert. You can even freeze it for a refreshing treat when the weather is hot and humid. Fresh lime juice is best, but you can certainly use bottled. Don't have key limes? Don't worry. Regular limes will work just as well.

Lime bars

Lime bars

Lime Bars

This is a twist on the traditional lemon bar. These lime bars begin with a buttery shortbread crust; a tangy lime custard bakes on top. They bake in 40 minutes, but plan ahead because they need at least two hours of chill time in the refrigerator. Easy-peasy.

Sources

© 2021 Linda Lum

Comments

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 19, 2021:

MizB you've convinced me that I need to try limeade. As for Rinita's comment, I assumed it was just a pinch of salt, as you would use to enhance the flavor of melon.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on April 19, 2021:

Thanks for the buttermilk lemon scone recipe. I still haven't slowed down enough yet to try the other one. I saw Rinita's comment about limeade. When I was pregnant with my first child, limeade was one of the few drinks I could keep down. I was extremely ill with gallstones and had trouble keeping anything on my stomach. But it's got to have sugar in it. No salt, please. Lime juice is also good in sweet tea (southern iced tea).

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 19, 2021:

Rinita, it is so very good to see you here. You have been missed. I have drank lemonade many times but have never tried limeade. It sounds very refreshing. Take care.

Rinita Sen on April 19, 2021:

Hi Linda, hope all is well. You have some great lime recipes here. But my favorite is still a glass of cool drink in hot summers made of lime juice, water, salt, and previously sugar (before my health diet). Hahaha, just a lighter note.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 15, 2021:

Denise, here's a recipe that uses raw cashews as a substitute for the dairy. I have never delved into that type of cooking (we aren't vegan and my Godson has a tree nut allergy). But I've seen cashews used in many recipes, so it must be a miracle ingredient.

Thanks for taking the time to find me--with the Maven undoings of our comments it's like a scavenger hunt. I'm still keeping my fingers crossed for relief in "the first half of the year" but that self-imposed deadline is getting pretty close and Sammantha isn't there anymore.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on April 15, 2021:

What a great history of the humble lime. I didn't know all that. I've cooked and baked with a lot of lemons but not used lime much. Perhaps I should give them a try. I'm intrigued by the Lime Bars. I used to make lemon bars all the time but hadn't thought of lime. I'll have to see if I can veganize it somehow.

Thanks.

Blessings,

Denise

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 15, 2021:

Flourish, there's no way that dear face is sour. Yes, I'll have a slice of pie too. Yum. Thanks for stopping by.

FlourishAnyway from USA on April 15, 2021:

I've got sour face from here, Linda! I'd love that pie with the graham cracker crust!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 14, 2021:

Good morning MizB. Although I've not tried it (I don't have anything so fancy) I'm quite certain that you could indeed use your divided cast iron skillet. Here's a link: https://www.southerncastiron.com/lemon-buttermilk-...

The Persian lime is the one we see most commonly in the supermarket.

Thanks for finding a way to comment. That's real dedication (and friendship) on your part, my dear.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on April 13, 2021:

Oh, be still my heart! Being a southern gal who loves blackberries, I raced to the blackberry lime scone recipe, and Hooray! It uses baking powder, not yeast, so I can make a gluten-free version. Do you think I could make it in my divided black iron skillet? It makes either six or eight, I forget which. I make a great nectarine cake that looks like miniature scones in that skillet.

Which of the limes on the chart are the common limes we get at the grocery store? I can't tell much difference in them and the key limes, except for the price.

I really want to make the salmon dish, too. I'm just now developing a taste for salmon, and this sounds delish. The foil wrapped cleanup appeals to me, too.

We learned about the "limeys" in elementary school. That's one thing in history class that I do remember. You've outdone yourself this time, my friend. I'm off to the grocery store to stock up on limes!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 13, 2021:

Hi Sis. Yes, I did contact Serious Eats, and they don't have a position for a writer at this time. But they know me and I know them. Thanks so much.

As for your aversion to cilantro, dear it really isn't your fault, a bad experience as a youth, etc. You aren't being picky. There are those (I can't understand it) who despise the taste of dark chocolate or roasted coffee. It's in your genes, so I'll give you a hall pass on this one, OK? Love you.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on April 13, 2021:

Sis, I asked my mom about cilantro. She loves it and I hate it. My natural father, however, wasn't big on spices or lots of flavor, so I wonder if I got my dislike of cilantro from him. I simply turn away from so many recipes that look and sound delicious until I see cilantro as an ingredient. It's frustrating because I've never been a picky eater. But, then again, I wasn't raised with dishes that call for it. I was raised on Southern cooking. My mom thru the years has taken many cooking classes and is now - and has been - a gourmet cook for decades. She's even cooked and hosted dinners for members of past Cabinet members. She's an awesome cook (and baker) to say the least. And still going strong at age almost-83!

If you're working on a cook book, that should be your priority, in my opinion. That will make you more moulah than HP and it will give you a sense of accomplishment. You'll reach a much wider audience if the book is a hardback. (Think "The Joy of Cooking", "McCall's", both of which I know we have in our kitchens.)

On another note, have you looked into any of the leads I emailed you a few weeks ago?

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 13, 2021:

Shauna, thank you so muchh for your kind words and encouragement. I'm working on a book, but the going is slow (Maybe I should not stress about having a cache of articles for HP. At last count I have 14 that are ready to publish).

As for the recipes--unfortunately, there is no substitute for cilantro--it's the flavor we're going for, not the color. But it's not your fault. Those who taste soap when they eat cilantro have a genetic marker that interprets the "cilantro flavor enzyme" in that quirky way.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 13, 2021:

Adrienne, I have not been able to find those finger limes at my produce market--they look quite unworldly, don't they? I adore the flavor of lime and hope I've inspired you to try it in more ways.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on April 13, 2021:

Linda, I always look forward to your food articles. Your introductions and history are informative, descriptive, fun, engaging, and expertly written. I think you'd be a wonderful short story writer.

Most of these recipes look delish. Only thing is I absolutely do not like cilantro. Is there a substitute? Parsley perhaps?

Key lime pie is one of my favorites. Of course, living in Florida, that's almost a given, right?

Adrienne Farricelli on April 13, 2021:

I never thought I would like limes until a friend of mine offered me a slice of her refreshing, heavenly key lime pie. So interesting to see so many different varieties I would have never imagined there was such a thing like a finger-shaped lime!

Chrish Canosa from Manila Philippines on April 13, 2021:

Awww!!! My heart is melting .... Kisses

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 13, 2021:

And I have just read several of your poems. Hauntingly beautiful.

Chrish Canosa from Manila Philippines on April 13, 2021:

I just checked your hubs, I'm now so very hungry hahahaha

Chrish Canosa from Manila Philippines on April 13, 2021:

Yeah, this is the first time your article pop up on my feed haha. I'd love to read more from you !!! Kisses

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 13, 2021:

Chrish, I think this is the first comment I've received from you. Welcome to my kitchen. I'm glad you found my article and took the time to write. Yes, lime juice is so refreshing. I do hope you will come back and visit some of my other articles. Blessings to you.

Chrish Canosa from Manila Philippines on April 12, 2021:

Absolutely perfect for summer! I'm burning here lol. I need more refreshing juices ....

A huge help thank you so much!

The provided recipes makes my stomach cry haha. Lots of love (wink)

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 12, 2021:

Thank you Manatita. Yes, the telling of the story is my joy. Thank you.

manatita44 from london on April 12, 2021:

I could do with the salad and cilantro dressing, as well as the lime bars. Delectable!

When I was home in the Caribbean, lime juice, for me, was an almost daily occurrence. Probably still is, as we are a hot country and perhaps the cold lime juice helps in strange ways.

Never knew that there were so many cross-breeds! I don't think we have that many in Grenada.

As usual, your history is superb and you seem to revel in it. Pax Vorbiscum!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 12, 2021:

Peggy, I'm happy to hear that you enjoyed it.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 12, 2021:

What a great article! I learned more about limes, and you also provided some terrific-sounding recipes. Thanks!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 12, 2021:

EK Jadoon, I don't buy Key limes here--they're frightfully expensive. I'm sorry to hear about your throat issues.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 12, 2021:

Sp Greaney, I agree. Lime has a unique flavor (that I really like) and it's very refreshing, especially on a hot summer day. Thanks for commenting.

Sp Greaney from Ireland on April 12, 2021:

This is so interesting. I never knew the background on this fruit.

I like adding lime slices instead of lemon to jugs of water. It adds a nice flavor.

Ann Carr from SW England on April 12, 2021:

I don't mind them; we have lots of friends there and they love insulting us because it's just in jest. I think we'd know if they really meant it! Arthur used to work there so he even has a bit of an accent - mixed with Brummie which is quite a sound! (from Birmingham in the Midlands).

Glad to hear you're well. So are we and I'm seeing the children more now, thank goodness.

Ann

EK Jadoon from Abbottabad Pakistan on April 11, 2021:

A well written and detailed article, Linda. I love limes. I ate a lot of it in school. That's why I'm suffering from tonsillitis today. Lol. My most favourite is key limes because of its sour taste.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 11, 2021:

Ann, don't listen to those Ausies. We are doing very well. The sun is shining and it's almost warm enough to wear only one sweatshirt haha.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 11, 2021:

Thank you, Pamela. I found nd that although I like all citrus, the flavor of lime is my favorite. As always your words are so very kind.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on April 11, 2021:

I like e flavor of lime and lemon. It is always interesting to read the history that you always provide.All of the recipes look delicious as well. The blackberry scone with a bit of lime sure looked good.

This is a very interesting article, Linda. I enjoyed reading it.

Ann Carr from SW England on April 11, 2021:

I love limes and all these recipes look yummy. Yes, the Australians still call us 'limeys' along with all sorts of other things (such as POHMy (pommie) bastards!). POHM being a 'prisoner of her majesty', from the days when we sent our convicts there.

Good job I've just eaten - though this is still making my mouth water!

I hope you're keeping safe and well, Linda.

Ann

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