A squeeze of fresh lime juice or dusting of zest can make all the difference in a recipe by adding a bright, citrusy flavor. As a long-time produce industry professional, I love seeing limes in stores and using them in all kinds of cuisine, for all kinds of occasions. One of the common challenges I’ve had in my career is educating people on how to select the best-tasting limes based on their color and characteristics. Limes are primarily used for the juice they produce, so it’s helpful to know the key ways to identify the juiciest pieces of fruit.
Can you identify the most flavorful lime?
Like most fruits, limes start off a plant-colored green hue and then turn a different shade of green, sometimes transitioning to yellow. Many consumers buy limes when they are a rich, dark green—the so-called “picture perfect” lime. However, dark green limes tend to be hard and acidic, with very little juice.
Instead, they should look for limes that are a lighter green color, or even a pale yellow, because they tend to have less acidity, better flavor, and more juice. Additionally, limes that feel heavy for their size usually have a higher juice content than those that feel lighter.
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—patches of lighter color that can be found on up to 25% of the surface area of a lime—is fairly common and does not impact the taste or texture of the fruit. Blanching occurs when part of the lime is blocked from sunlight, typically because it was shaded by leaves or other limes. These lighter colored areas will not progress or spread.
Do you 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 times fall May through October; the lighter crop period runs from mid-February through April.
It’s exciting to see that limes continue to grow in popularity and be used in so many food and beverage recipes. With peak season right in front of us—and Cinco de Mayo, a holiday ripe with opportunities for consumers to use limes—now is the perfect time to help educate consumers about selecting juicy, flavorful limes.
Interested in learning more about limes? Read our paper, Limes: Consumer and Commodity Insights.
Ready to explore opportunities for your lime program? Connect with one of our fresh experts.