Limes are popular citrus fruits known for their sour flavor and bright lime green and are loved worldwide for their versatility in cooking, baking, and cocktail making.
There are many different types of limes, each with distinctive flavor, shape, colors, and size. This piece is a comprehensive guide to the different varieties of lime, from the most common to the most exotic.
⬇️ Table of Contents
- Key Limes
- Persian Limes
- Blood Limes
- Finger Limes
- Kaffir Limes
- Kusaie Limes
- Mandarin Limes
- Mary Ellen Sweet Limes
- Australian Desert Limes
- Australian Finger Limes
- Rangpur Limes
- Makrut Limes
- Other Notable Varieties of Limes
- Lime Usage in Cooking
- Picking Ripe Limes
- Lime Varieties Around the World
- The Lime Family: Citrus Fruit Varieties
- The Lime Tree: A Thorny Abode
- Lemons and Limes in Cooking
- Mexican Limes in Cooking
- Limes in Philippine Cuisine
- Omani Dried Limes
- In Conclusion
Among the popular varieties of limes, the Key Lime, also known as Mexican Lime or West Indian Lime, stands out due to its unique flavor profile. Key limes are smaller than other kinds of limes, with a diameter of only one to two inches.
The key lime juice and zest are used in a variety of culinary applications. The most famous of these is the Key lime pie or Lime Pie, an American dessert that perfectly showcases the lime's tangy flavor.
The very light green and yellow of Key Lime flesh is known to be more bitter than other Mexican limes, which sets it apart and gives it a unique appeal. These limes grow on thorny bush-like trees, aptly named the Key Lime Tree.
Persian Lime, or Tahiti Lime, is the most common lime found in grocery stores around the world. Unlike the Key Lime, the Persian Tahiti Lime is larger, typically about the size of a lemon.
Another difference is that the Persian Lime is less bitter than Key Limes, and its flavor is more straightforwardly sour. Identifying, they are light yellow-ish-green rather than dark green.
Bearss Lime, a type of Persian Lime, is notable for its seedless fruit and thornless lime trees. Bearss tahiti Limes are larger than most other limes, and the flavor is milder. Both Tahiti Limes and Bearss Limes are often used in dishes that include lime juice due to their seedless nature and the straightforward sour taste of ripe lime.
Blood Limes, also known as Red Finger Limes and with the scientific name of Citrus australasica, are a special type of lime that is grown in Australia.
As their name implies, Blood Limes have a unique appearance - they have an oblong shape and are bright red in color, giving them an almost ruby-like hue. In terms of taste, Blood Limes are similar to other types of limes but have a sweeter flavor profile due to their higher sugar content.
Blood Limes can be eaten fresh like other citrus fruits; however, many people prefer to juice them for drinks or use them in cooking. In addition to Australia, Blood Limes are also grown in Mexico, South East Asia, and India.
The Australian Finger Lime, or Caviar Lime, is an exciting variety of lime that has gained popularity in recent years due to its unique texture.
The flesh of this lime is filled with tiny juice sacs that resemble caviar, giving an interesting twist to the usual lime experience. Biting into these lime pearls releases a burst of tangy lime flavor.
There's also a Red Finger Lime variety, which has a similar structure but with a striking red hue.
The Kaffir Lime, native to Southeast Asia, is known for its bumpy green skinned citrus fruits and distinct aroma. The Kaffir Lime Peel is often used in Thai and Indonesian cuisine to impart a unique citrus flavor; the kaffir lime zest is great for curries.
Kaffir Limes, kaffir lime leaves are also known for growing on thorny bush-like trees, much as Persian limes like the Key Lime. Compared to Mexican and Persian limes, kaffir limes have very little juice.
Kusaie Lime, also known scientifically as Citrus latifolia Tanaka, is a variety of lime fruit that is native to the Kusaie region in the Pacific Ocean.
It has a bright green color and an acidic/tangy taste. The flesh of the lime fruit is slightly thicker than other types of limes, making it juicier and more flavorful. It is a hybrid lime fruit variety with characteristics of both lemons and limes, making it unique among other varieties.
Limequat, also known as Eustis Citrus x Confertifolia, is a hybrid fruit resulting from the of a citron fruit and mandarin orange. It resembles a small lime in size and shape, but it has seeds like a kumquat.
The outside skin is thin and yellow-green in color with an acidic yet sweet taste. It is believed to have originated in central Florida, USA, and can now be found in countries around the world such as Mexico, Australia, India, Oman, and the Philippines. Culinary magic when limes and kumquats come together.
The unique thing about lemon lime tree, this hybrid lime fruit, is that it has oblong citrus juice sacs similar to caviar pearls when sliced open. Biting into these lime pearls provides a burst of sweet and sour flavor, unlike other limes such as the key lime or Bearss lime. It has a distinctive taste, which is more acidic than Mexican limes but sweeter than Persians.
Mandarin Limes, known by their scientific name Citrus latifolia, are small, round limes typically found in Asia and the Middle East.
They have thin, pale green, yellow, or green skin that is slightly bumpy and a juicy interior with a mild sweet flavor. The most interesting aspect of Mandarinlime is a hybrid by origin: it is a cross between a citron fruit and a mandarin orange.
These limes vary in size from smaller than ginger limes and other types of lime to finger limes and larger than key limes.
Mary Ellen Sweet Limes
Mary Ellen Sweet Lime, also known as Citrus x latifolia (Tanaka), is a type of lime variety with an oblong shape and green color.
They have a sweet flavor and typically grow in tropical regions such as the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, South America, and some parts of Southeast Asia.
Australian Desert Limes
Australian Desert Limes, or Citrus glauca, is a species of small, round lime found in the desert regions of Australia. The fruit is greenish-yellow and has thin skin that is slightly rough to the touch. It has a juicy pulp with an intense, sweet-tart flavor.
The limes are native to arid parts of inland Australia, including South Australia and Western Australia. They have also been recorded in desert regions such as the Simpson Desert and on some offshore islands like Christmas Island.
Uniquely shaped shrubs with glossy leaves make it possible to distinguish Australian Desert Limes from other citrus trees quickly. Additionally, these limes produce higher yields when paired with another variety called "Paroo."
Australian Finger Limes
Australian Finger Limes (Citrus australasica) are a citrus fruit native to the rainforests of eastern Australia.
The fruits measure up to 8 cm in length and have a cylindrical shape with a pointed end. They have thin, leathery skin ranging from bright green to deep burgundy, depending on their ripeness.
Hundreds of small caviar-like juice vesicles inside the fruit provide an intense burst of tart and tangy flavor when consumed raw.
Rangpur limes (Citrus jambhiri Lush.) are intriguingly a hybrid of citron fruit and mandarin orange, contrary to their name. Despite the confusion, some people know them as Indian Mandarin lime.
Although these limes resemble tiny oranges, they taste tart like a typical lime. This peculiar combination places them often among the lists of unusual limes.
Their acidic taste lends itself well to various culinary uses. Marmalade made from Rangpur limes is notably popular. In essence, these limes are a remarkable fruit, offering a blend of unique characteristics.
The Rangpur Lime tree can grow up to seven meters tall and produce small fruits similar to lemons. The lime has fewer seeds than other varieties, such as key limes or Bearss limes, making it easier to juice, zest, or use in cooking without worrying about the seeds.
The Rangpur Lime is more tolerant of cold climates than other key limes and can be grown in regions with mild winters.
Makrut lime (Citrus hystrix), a relative of the papeda family, is among the top three most-produced limes worldwide.
Other Notable Varieties of Limes
Several other types of limes are worth mentioning. The Blood Lime, an intriguing hybrid fruit, gets its name from the red tinge of its orange colored flesh.
The Mandarin Lime, or the Rangpur Lime, is a hybrid of the Mandarin Orange and the citron fruit. It's often mistaken for a mandarin due to the orange hue of orange flesh on the yellow and green colors of its skin, but its taste is unmistakably lime-like.
As the name suggests, Sweet Limes is less sour than other limes and have a mild, sweet flavor. There's also the Calamansi Lime, which is among the smallest of the lime varieties. It's native to the Philippines and is referred to as Philippine Limes.
The Omani Lime is a type of lime that is usually dried to intensify its flavor. These small Omani dried limes are often used in Middle Eastern cuisine, giving a sweet, tangy flavor to various dishes.
Lime Usage in Cooking
Limes are often used in various cuisines worldwide. The lime juice is used in marinades, cocktails, and desserts to provide a refreshing, tangy flavor.
The lime zest adds a burst of citrus essence to dishes without the additional acidity. When cooking, one might wonder whether to use lemons or limes.
While they both belong to the citrus family and share a similar flavor profile, the choice depends on the specific tanginess and aroma you want to achieve. Lemons are generally more tart, while limes have a unique, bitter-sweet flavor.
Picking Ripe Limes
When selecting ripe limes, look for vibrant, light green flesh and skin. Limes are ripe when firm to the touch but give a little when gently squeezed.
Unlike other fruits, limes do not ripen after they have been picked. It's best to store them in a cool, dry place or refrigerate them to extend their shelf life.
Lime Varieties Around the World
- There are several other lime varieties found around the globe. The Australian Finger Lime, also known as the Caviar Lime, is an exciting variety. The Red Finger Lime, a variation of the Australian Finger Lime, also boasts a unique flavor and texture.
- The West Indian Lime, also called thornless Mexican lime, is another popular variety in the Caribbean. It's small, round, and has a unique tartness. In Asia, the Kaffir Lime is widely used in local cuisine, particularly in Thailand and Indonesia.
- The Philippine lime (Citrus × microcarpa) is an intriguing blend of kumquat and mandarin. The Philippines also has its lime variety known as Calamansi or Philippine Limes. These limes are often used in Filipino cuisine as a souring agent. Calamansi Limes are also popular for their health benefits and are known to be rich in Vitamin C.
- In the Middle East, Omani Limes or dried Omani Limes, also called Black Limes, are a staple in the local cuisine. These limes are boiled in salt water and sun-dried until they turn black. The drying process gives the limes a unique, smoky, and slightly fermented flavor.
- There are even hybrid lime fruits, like the Mandarin Lime, also known as the Rangpur Lime. This lime is a cross between a citron fruit and a mandarin orange, resulting in an oblong citrus fruit with a distinctive tangy flavor.
The Lime Family: Citrus Fruit Varieties
In the wide family of citrus fruits, limes hold a special place. They are related to many other fruits, like lemons, oranges, grapefruits, and even kumquats.
Each of these fruits has unique characteristics, but limes stand out for their distinctive flavor and variety.
While many varieties of limes are similar in taste and aroma, each has unique characteristics. For instance, the taste of Mexican Limes is distinct from Persian Limes.
The names for these lime varieties vary across regions, reflecting these fruits' cultural significance and regional usage.
The Lime Tree: A Thorny Abode
Interestingly, many types of limes, like the Key Lime, grow on thorny bush-like structures called lime trees. The Key Lime Tree, for instance, is famously prickly.
Its small type of round lime is a stark contrast to the imposing thorns that protect it. In contrast, Persian Limes, including Bearss Limes, grow on thornless lime trees, making them less daunting to harvest.
Cooking with Limes: A World of Flavor
Limes are a universal ingredient in sweet dishes. From the Americas to Asia and the Middle East, limes enhance the flavors of countless dishes.
Lemons and Limes in Cooking
The question often arises: should we use lemons or limes in cooking? The answer depends on the specific flavor profile one is aiming to achieve. While both belong to the citrus family and share a similar tangy flavor, lemons are generally more tart, and limes have a unique, bitter-sweet flavor, especially key limes.
Lime juice and zest are commonly used components. The juice provides a tangy flavor, while the zest adds a hint of citrusy aroma without the acidity. Lime juice is often used in beverages, marinades, and dressings, while the zest is a delightful addition to baked goods and desserts.
Mexican Limes in Cooking
Mexican cuisine prominently features limes, particularly the Mexican Lime, also known as the Key Lime.
Some claim that Key Limes offers a distinct flavor compared to other types of Mexican limes, similar to other types of limes but much smaller than others. They are usually more acidic, taste less sweet, and are more bitter than Bearss Limes, a variety of Persian Limes.
Limes in Philippine Cuisine
In the Philippines, limes are often used as a souring agent in various dishes. The Philippine Limes, known as Calamansi Limes, are usually small and round.
Despite their size, they pack very little juice and a tangy punch, an essential component of the local cuisine.
Omani Dried Limes
In the Middle East, specifically in Oman, limes are also a staple in the culinary scene. However, these limes are unique because they are often dried.
The small limes are dried until they turn black, resulting in Omani Dried Limes, which offer a unique smoky flavor invaluable in many traditional dishes.
Limes are a fascinating type of fruit, with many different varieties each offering a unique flavor, size, and texture. From the bitter Key Limes to the larger Bearss Limes, from the hybrid Rangpur Lime to the exotic Australian varieties, each variety has something different to offer.