Dietribes: Whose Lime Is it Anyway?


• The lime you merely call "lime" at the grocery store is more than likely the more exotic sounding Tahiti Lime (a.k.a. Persian Lime), now grown mostly in Florida and sold as a regular ole lime in the U.S. The Tahiti Lime is larger, has thicker skin, a longer shelf life and is less aromatic and has less acid than the familiar key lime.

• Limes have more sugar and citric acid than lemons. A little lime can pack a mighty punch: limonene, a zesty citrus compound, gives many people watery eyes and a burning sensation in the nose.

• Key limes are known to have a more bitter flavor, which apparently works great in a pie. Before Tahiti limes became the lime de jour of Floridian agriculture (after an early 21st century hurricane wiped out most of the Key lime groves), Key limes ruled supreme. Originally from Malaysia, Spaniards brought them to Florida shores in the 1500s. Most likely the Key limes you buy today, though, come from Mexico.

• The true origins of the Key Lime Pie may never be known, but most legends begin with a woman known as "Aunt Sally," a Key West cook who created the pie in the late 1800s, or at least adapted it from a primitive version eaten by local spongers. Other historians believe Key Lime Pies gained popularity following the 1856 invention of sweetened condensed milk. Either way, it remains extremely popular today. Where have you had the best Key Lime Pie, Flossers? Or do you make it yourself?

• Limes are heavily used as a garnish or zest with a variety of alcoholic drinks, including that ubiquitous lime used with Corona beer. In fact, what's the deal with that Corona lime? Whether it's to clean the tip of the bottle, kill germs, shoo away flies, or mask the taste of skunky beer, the jury is still out.
• The greatest use for limes is, of course, as a temporary hat for cats. It works well as a color, too: Electric Lime was introduced as a Crayola color in 1991

• In the mid-1700s you might have called out, rather insultingly, "Avast, ye scurvy dogs!" But by the early 1800s, you would have changed your offense to something more along the lines of "Avast, ye limey dogs!" Those 50 years would mark the timespan between the discovery of citrus as a way to ward of scurvy in sailors, and its actual application by the Royal Navy. Lime juice became a standard ration over lemons (since limes were more plentifully harvested from Britain's Caribbean colonies) and scurvy was almost completely erradicated. British sailors, followed by (somewhat puzzlingly) all Brits in general, were thereafter known as limeys.

• Same name, very different story: Lime (Limestone) is "a naturally occurring and abundant sedimentary rock consisting of high levels of calcium and/or magnesium carbonate, and/or dolomite, along with minerals." It's also used in environmental applications to help comply with air, drinking water, wastewater and solid waste regulations (Lime is known for removing impurities). It's also used with asphalt, mortar, plaster, and in the form of quicklime, some nefarious things as well (yes that would be a reference to "The Wire"). Long story short: it's everywhere!

• Things which you do not wish your town to be known for: diseases. Lyme disease is named after the town of Lyme, Connecticut, where in 1975 children and adults were experiencing uncommon arthritic symptoms. The black-legged tick was linked to the transmission of the disease, but poor Lyme, Connecticut would retain the naming rights.

• And FYI, though Scurvy Awareness Day was May 2nd, it's never too late to celebrate!

• What else do you guys put limes in besides alcohol? I recently over-limed my homemade Pad Thai. It's a mistake you don't make twice, believe me ...

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‘Dietribes’ appears every other Wednesday. Food photos taken by Johanna Beyenbach. You might remember that name from our post about her colorful diet.