Are You Buying the Best Lime?
I’ve been in the lime business for a long time. I eat, breathe, and sleep limes. One of the biggest battles I’ve had is educating people on how to select the best-tasting fruit based on the lime’s color and characteristics. Can you identify the most flavorful lime? Limes can be one of the hardest pieces of fruit to perfect. Like most fruits, limes start as a plant-colored green and then turn a different shade of green, or even change to yellow. Most retailers and consumers buy limes when they are a rich, dark green—the “picture perfect” lime. However, limes like this tend to be hard, acidic, and have very little juice. Limes are primarily used for the juice they produce, and there are a few ways to identify the juiciest pieces of fruit. Look for limes that are soft to the touch. Limes that feel heavy for their size indicate more juice than those that feel lighter. Look for limes that are a lighter green color, or even yellow, because they tend to have less acidity, better flavor, and more juice. When appraising a lime’s appearance, don’t immediately dismiss one that’s not uniformly colored; some defects really don’t affect the quality of the fruit. For example, blanching—a lighter color that can be found on up to 25% of the surface area of the lime—is fairly common and does not impact the taste or texture of the lime. Blanching can occur when sunlight fails to hit all areas of the lime, which can be caused by leaves shading the fruit or when a cluster of limes grows closely together, blocking parts of the fruit from the sun. These lighter colored areas will not progress or spread. Know the growing seasons of limes The majority of limes that come into the United States are from Mexico. Mexico has four growing seasons per year, which is more growing time than many regions in the United States. The seasons are so moderate that while one crop is finishing up, the next crop can already be growing. This means lime production can occur 52 weeks out of the year—though it’s important to note that there are still heavy and light production times throughout the year. The heaviest falls May through October; the lighter crop period runs from mid-February through April.