While many citrus fruits come in different colors, the lime simply comes in green. This fruit has an oval or round shape and is one to two inches in diameter. Limes grow on trees that flourish in tropical and subtropical climates.
Limes can be thought of as mini "clones" of lemons when it comes to nutritional content. The phytonutrients which are found in limes are eriocitrin, kaempferol and coumarins.
Limes were originally from Southeast Asia. They were carried by Arab traders into North Africa and Egypt around the 10th Century and were introduced to Spain by the Moors in the 13th Century. During the Crusades, limes were spread throughout southern Europe and, as with many other citrus fruits, brought to the New World by Christopher Columbus.
Of all the citrus fruits, limes are most susceptible to injury by frost. Lime trees are successfully cultivated in countries where the weather is hot and humid, such as the Caribbean. Limes are rich in vitamin C and were used by British explorers to prevent scurvy.
West Indies limes were introduced to the U.S. in the 16th Century by Spanish explorers who travelled to the Florida Keys. "Key lime" is still the nickname given to this fruit in the Florida Keys. While the fruit was brought to California, the weather there could not support its growth. Limes are grown in the southernmost areas of Florida, Brazil and Mexico.
Limes are very similar in their nutritional benefits to that of lemons. This fruit is an excellent source of vitamin C and also provides good amounts of potassium, folic acid, vitamin B6, and limonene, an important phytochemical.
The pulp and juice from a lime can provide about 20 milligrams of vitamin C, which is 33 percent of the daily recommended requirement for this vitamin.
Phytochemicals are high in antioxidants and anti-cancer properties, and limes are full of them. Recent research has also shown that lime juice can affect cell cycles. In particular, lime juice can help modulate the way a cell divides or dies, and can even boost white blood cell activity.
Limes also have an antibiotic effect. During a cholera epidemic in several West African villages, it was discovered that inclusion of lime juice into the patients' main meal served to strongly prevent the development of cholera. Cholera is a bacterial disease which results in very severe diarrhea.
Limes can help to heal cuts and bruises and also are an aid for preventing heart disease and cancer. Limonene has been shown in research studies to increase the level of enzymes in the liver which remove cancer-causing chemicals from the body. This enzyme is also known to increase the activity of the proteins in the body that help to rid the body of estradiol, a naturally-occurring hormone linked to breast cancer.
In Europe it is not uncommon for citrus zest to be added to baking flour to increase the health benefits of flour.
Lime peels contain high levels of oxalates and lime flesh contains low levels of oxalates. People who are known to have calcium oxalate-containing kidney stones should limit or avoid consumption of limes.
Most people are not allergic to limes, although some are allergic to all citrus peels. All citrus peels should not be eaten. Although citrus peels contain beneficial oils, these oils can also interfere with body functions and have an adverse effect on some medications.
Pesticide residues can also be found on the skin or peel of limes and this fruit should be thoroughly washed before consuming.
Selecting and Storing
Limes should feel heavy for their size and be green in color. Limes which have brown or purple spots may be decaying and should not be purchased or consumed. While this fruit is available all year long, a greater supply is typically in the marketplace from mid-spring to mid-fall.
As with other citrus fruits, limes can be kept at room temperature and will stay good for about a week. They should be kept away from direct sunlight, as sunlight causes them to turn a yellowish color and also affects their flavor. Limes can also be stored in the refrigerator in a loose plastic bag. Refrigerated limes can be kept for 10 to 14 days.
Lime zest and juice can be stored for later use. Freshly squeezed lime juice should be put in ice cube trays and frozen. Once frozen, transfer the cubes of juice to plastic bags and store in the freezer for up to three months.
When dried, lime zest can be stored in a cool, dry place in an airtight glass container. Lime zest will remain good in this state for two to three months.
Serving Ideas for Limes
Limes are typically used in key lime pies, as well as drinks which are alcoholic or non-alcoholic. Limes are not as sour as lemons and can also be used for flavoring salads. Generally speaking, limes can be used in place of lemons in almost any recipe.
An easy dish can be prepared by cooking brown rice with garden peas, diced chicken, scallions, pumpkins seeds, lime juice and lime zest. Lime juice can also be squeezed onto pieces of raw avocado and eaten for a snack.
- Holford, P.(2004). The optimum nutrition bible. London : Piatkus
- Holford, P & Lawson, S. (2008). Optimum Nutrition Made Easy How to achieve optimum health. London : Piatkus
- Murray, M.T. et al.(2005). Encyclopedia of healing foods. London : Piatkus
- Yeager, S. & Prevention Health Books. (1998). The doctors book of food remedies : the newest discoveries in the power of food to cure and prevent health problems from aging and diabetes to ulcers and yeast infections. [Emmaus, Pa.] : Rodale
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