Key Lime

Key Lime

Season for Key Lime June – August

Key Lime Described

The Key Lime Pie has propelled this citrus fruit into utter stardom. But, the Key Lime, also sometimes called the West Indian Lime, Bartender’s Lime, Omani Lime or Mexican Lime, has a unique propensity for adding a tart, bitter element to balance out all manner of recipes (where it tends to be overlooked). Key Limes are actually yellow when ripe, though they tend to be picked green commercially, hence the acidity. Smaller (little bigger than a walnut!), seedier, with a stronger aroma, more dynamic flavor and a thinner rind, these baby limes pack more of a punch than their larger relatives and prove the mightiness that comes in small packages. 

How to Buy and Store Key Lime

Look for brightly colored, smooth-skinned Key Limes that are firm and heavy for their size. Make sure there are no signs of mold or decay. Small brown areas (scald) on the skin won’t affect flavor or succulence but a lime that is mostly brown will likely be unpalatable. Also, avoid a hard or shriveled skin. Refrigerate uncut limes in a plastic bag for up to 10 days – after which they will begin to lose their flavor. Cut limes can be stored in the same way but only for 5 days.

How to Cook Key Lime

When in season, try replacing the traditional Persian Lime with fresh Key Lime in your recipes, and see if you ever go back. You just might prefer it for the flavoring of fish and meats, marinades, cocktails (perhaps limeade) and as a tantalizing garnish. Key Lime juice itself can be used for syrups, sauces, preserves, and of course, Key Lime Pie. Alas, these days most commercially available Key lime pies are made from the frozen concentrate of the Persian Lime, not the Key Lime. But nothing beats the deliciousness of a fresh, homemade Key Lime Pie that capitalizes on this distinct citrus 

Health Benefits of Key Lime

Limes have similar health benefits as lemons – both powerhouses of flavor and nutrition. They provide an excellent source of vitamin C which has historically made limes of great use when it comes to scurvy. They also offer a good source of folic acid, vitamin B6 and potassium. Limes contain special flavonoid content that’s high in antioxidant and anticancer properties. Studies have shown that lime juice can affect cell cycles, stopping cell division in many cancer cell lines. Key Limes also have an antibiotic effect and are strongly protective against diseases such as cholera.

Why Buy Natural and Organic Key Lime

Most important if your recipe calls for Key Lime zest, be sure to purchase limes that have been grown organically, as most conventionally grown fruits will have pesticide residues on their skin. Though a good washing can help remove many of the pesticides, it’s never fool proof, and the only way to be confident in the quality of your fruit is to go the organic route. Plus, you send the message that you support sustainable farming practices with every organic purchase you make.

As to bottled Key Lime juice, it is both a far cry from fresh squeezed lime juice in taste and quality, but also lacks a lot of the vitamin C associated with this refreshing fruit.

image: Tanaka Juuyo