Origin of Sweet Lime
Though the Citrus genus has many points of origins ranging from Indonesia to China, a 2004 report published in the “Agriculture Review” points to the hills of Meghalaya and Nagaland as the home of sweet limes (Citrus tanaka). On the other hand, the book, “Fruits of Warm Climates” cites a broader range by including India’s central and northern regions. The fruit itself is a hybrid of a Mexican lime and sweet citron or sweet lemon.
Today, sweet limes grow in Egypt, Syria, Palestine, tropical Americas, parts of Southeast Asia, and the Mediterranean. It’s also a hobby fruit in parts of Florida and California.
Availability of Sweet Lime in India
Sweet lime is one of those uniquely Indian fruits that, while perhaps not originating in the country, has a large fan base. One reference to the fruit has a non-resident of India harkening back to the scorching summer days of India. Indeed, it’s common to spot pedestrians stopping for a cup of tangy, refreshing sweet lime juice as a way of squelching the heat.
Sweet limes, also known as “tanaka,” are cultivated in the Northeast regions of India, specifically in the hills at high elevations between 1,000m to 2,700m. It’s difficult to determine sweet lime’s production figures, as they’re generally lumped into “sweet orange” statistics. Furthermore, “mosambi” sometimes means Citrus sinensis, which can be any variety of sweet oranges. Nonetheless, The FAO lists India’s 2011 citrus production at a staggering 54 million metric tonnes, of which the “National Bank and Agriculture and Rural Development Centre” lists sweet oranges accounting for approximately 25 percent of all citrus cultivation in the country.
Where to find Sweet Lime in India
Sweet limes come into season mostly during the rainy months from July to August, far before other orange varieties hit the shelves between October through November, and again from November through March. While citrus fruits can be found year-round, sweet limes are quite distinctly a summer monsoon fruit. They can be found in all parts of the country.
When in season, it’s impossible to avoid street vendors trying to push a cup of the pale yellow juice in one’s hands. Shops large and small line their shelves with the greenish yellow fruits, and most restaurants willingly oblige requests for a cup of the freshly squeezed juice.
Checking for Ripeness in Sweet Lime
Sweet limes are no different than most types of citrus—they will not ripen off the tree, and must be picked when fully ripe. This is indicated by its tennis ball size and lustrous greenish yellow sheen. Gently scratch the surface of a sweet lime: If its oils embed in the fingernails, it’s ripe. The juiciest fruits feel heavy for their size.
Overripe sweet limes, on the other hand, are dull, shrunken, and possess dry, spongy skin. Avoid fruits with brownish yellow discoloration. Also check for premature sweet limes, which feel light for their size and are hard with tart flesh.
Taste of Sweet Lime
Sweet lime tastes as it sounds. More specifically, the fruit is sweet but retains the same essence as a lime but without the mouth puckering qualities—it’s a sweet, mellow citrus. If limeade could be encapsulated in a fruit, it would be the sweet lime. The flavor is a bit flatter than some citruses due to its lack of acidity, while other citruses tend to be better well rounded in their ratio of sour-acid-sweet. This type of citrus doesn’t contain the same pungency as grapefruits, nor the sharpness of oranges. Sweet limes are wholly agreeable, bearing great similarity to pith-free pomelo flesh.
Nutritional Value of Sweet Lime
According to the “Nutritive Value of Indian Foods” published by the National Institute of Nutrition, 100g of sweet lime has the following values:
50mg Vitamin C
Health Benefits of Sweet Lime
Sweet lime, like all citrus, contains potent vitamins and nutrients. Its high vitamin C and folic acid content ensure strong immunity, glowing skin health, and support to bones and joints. As explained in the book, “Health-Promoting Properties of Fruits and Vegetables,” citrus also contains other extremely beneficial compounds including chlorophyll, carotenoids, phenolics, flavonoids, and limonoids.
The book goes on to reference studies pointing the fruit’s cardiovascular benefits (Economos 1999), protective benefits against stroke (Joshipura 1999), anticancer properties against degenerative diseases (Silalahi 2002), reduced oxidative stress, (Dayhim et al. 2007) and antiplatelet activity (Piccinelli 2008).
Additional health benefits are as follows:
--According to a 2011 study published in Food Chemistry, Citrus limetta possesses remarkable antioxidant activity.
--A 2011 study published in ISRN Endocrinology found that Citrus limetta fruit peel displayed antihyperglycemic properties.
--A 2005 article published on the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service page mentions studies showing citrus limonoids have been shown to fight various forms of cancer, including that of the mouth, skin, lung, breast, stomach and colon.
--A 2013 study published in Industrial Crops and Products affirms sweet lime’s ability to inhibit colon cancer cell proliferation.
--According to a 2013 study published in Herbert Open Access Journal, sweet lime illustrated antimicrobial properties.
How to Open/Cut:
Once peeled, sweet lime is sugary enough to eat as-is. Some sweet limes have a reasonably thick, pliable skin that makes peeling easy. Some thin, tight-skinned fruits require careful cutting with a serrated knife in order to peel. Once peeled, Cut into desired sized pieces. Mosambi flesh retains its shape well, thus allowing for cubing if desired.
Sweet limes have a long shelf life at room temperature, as they keep fresh for up to two weeks. In the refrigerator, sweet limes last for four to eight weeks. It’s possible to freeze slices of the fruit, though the limonin content in sweet limes may cause the pulp to taste bitter over time. A way to avoid this is by freezing the fruit in a “wet pack,” achieved by submerging the slices in sweet syrup within an airtight glass jar. Or, make orange juice and freeze the liquid. Frozen juice will keep for up to six months, though it’s best to check the fruit periodically to ensure it doesn’t become sour.
|Juice from the site|
Sweet Lime Recipe Ideas and Uses:
--Sweet lime juice is a favorite in the humid rainy season: simply peel and juice the whole fruit, using either a commercial juicer or a hand-held citrus juicer. Additional flavors to add to any juice include mint, ginger, cranberry, strawberry, orange, pineapple, coconut water, lemon, lime, or kiwi.
--Make a salad dressing from the fruit by combining it with a mustard base, white wine vinegar, pepper and agave.
--Make popsicles from the fruit’s juice, adding chunks of fruit as desired.
--Use as a substitute in any recipe calling for lemon or lime.
--Make syrup from the juice, using it to sweeten carbonated water or to make a chilled sorbet dessert.
--Add the juice to ice teas as a twist on the classic Arnold palmer.
--Use the zest of the sweet lime in baked goods, lime pies and to enhance rice dishes.
--Add cubed sweet lime to salsa recipes: mix with tomato, onion, garlic, cilantro, and black bean.
Lemon, lime, citron, buddha’s hand, calamondin, kumquat, mandarins, coconut, pineapple, mango, banana, kokum, cochin goraka, garcinia cambogia, strawberry, watermelon, star gooseberry, amla, bilimbi, calamondin
Herbs, spices, and oil: coconut water, mint, basil, lime or lemon juice, white vinegar, pepper, mustard, champagne, vodka, ginger, honey, ice tea
This fruit doesn’t get referenced often in Hollywood, but it’s mentioned in Wes Anderson’s movie, “The Darjeeling Limited.” The train hostess, Rita (played by Amara Karan), offers the juice to the three brothers as they make their way through India by rail. “Sweet lime?” she asks.
Citrus limettioides Tanaka
Citrus limetta (though some will say this is “sweet lemon,” and should not be confused with sweet lime)
Mosambi (this name could connote several types of citrus)
Bathaya Kaayalu (Telegu)
Any fruit in the citrus group: lemon, lime, orange, citron, pomelo, etc