Lime, any of several species and hybrids of trees and shrubs in the rue family
( Rutaceae ), widely grown in tropical and subtropical areas for their edible acidic fruits.
The Persian lime (Citrus ×latifolia) is one of the most common commercial varieties,
though the smaller key lime, or Mexican lime (C. ×aurantifolia), is also economically
important in many places.
The lime fruit is a key ingredient in certain pickles and
chutneys, and lime juice is used to flavour drinks, food, and confections. Limeade and
other lime-flavoured drinks have a flavour and bouquet quite distinct from those made
from lemons. The juice may be concentrated, dried, frozen, or canned. Lime oil, from the
peel of the fruit, is processed mainly in the West Indies. Citrate of lime and citric acid
are also prepared from the fruit.
than 5 metres (16 feet) high and if not pruned becomes
shrublike. Its branches spread and are irregular, with short stiff twigs, small leaves, and
many small sharp thorns. The evergreen leaves are pale green, and the small white
flowers are usually borne in clusters. The fruit is usually about 3 to 4 cm (1 to 1.5
inches) in diameter, oval to nearly globular in shape, often with a small apical nipple, and
the peel is thin and greenish yellow when the fruit is ripe.
The pulp is tender, juicy, yellowish
green in colour, and decidedly acid. Limes exceed lemons in both acid and sugar content.
There are, however, some varieties so lacking in citric acid that they are known as sweet
limes. These are grown to some extent in Egypt and certain tropical countries.
originated in the Indonesian archipelago or the nearby mainland of
Asia. Arabian traders may have taken limes, as well as lemons, from India to the eastern
Mediterranean countries and Africa about 1000 ce. Limes were introduced to the
western Mediterranean countries by returning Crusaders in the 12th and 13th
centuries. Christopher Columbus took citrus seeds, probably including limes, to the
West Indies on his second voyage in 1493, and the trees soon became widely
distributed in the West Indies, Mexico, and Florida.
Limes are grown to a limited extent
in practically all citrus-growing areas. Limes contain vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and were
formerly used in the British navy to prevent scurvy—hence the nickname “limey.”