Lemons and Limes

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The relationship between limes and lemons is more complex than meets the eye. They belong to the same family, but the smaller lime is actually a predecessor of the lemon, and stems from a different continent, where the lemon can’t grow.

Lemons, scientifically known as Citrus limon, originate from limes, Citrus aurantifolia. They were originally developed as a two-step hybrid, first between the lime and the citron in India and Pakistan, and the second (lime with pummelo) in the Middle East. They were introduced to Europe by Arabs in Moorish Spain in the year 400, before being introduced to Northern Africa. In 1493, lemons were brought to the Americas by Christopher Columbus, and have been grown in Florida since the 16th century.

Lemons, unlike limes, do not grow as well in the tropics. Limes, which originate in Southeast Asia, come in two varieties, sweet and sour. The kaffir lime variety –popular throughout Southeast Asia –has a rough green peel with citrus and pine notes.

Despite the name ‘lime green’ both lemons and limes turn pale yellow when fully ripe. One of the tricks to finding a good quality lemon is to pick a thin-skinned one since those with thicker peels have less flesh, making them less juicy. Varieties include the large and course Ponderosa, and the Meyer lemon, which is thin-skinned, less acidic, and probably a cross between the lemon and orange or mandarin, with a thyme note. When it comes to limes, those with a deep green color should be chosen, and stored away from sunlight exposure. Though available year round, limes are in the peak of their season from May to October, while lemons peak May to August.

Limes are the most acidic of all the citrus fruits, with as much as 8 percent of their weight being citric acid. Lemons are also valued for their acidity, often 5 percent of juice. Both lemons and limes have unique antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. Lemons are a richer source of Vitamin C than limes. Studies have shown that cell cycles are altered by lemon and lime juice, which attests to their healing properties.

Lemon Tree by Melanie Schiff

Text: Jasmina Knezovic

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