In the late 1700s, British sailors were issued a daily ration of lime juice to ward off scurvy on long sea voyages—hence the nickname “limey.” The vitamin C-rich juice was served with a ration of rum (officers watched to make sure the sailors consumed both).


Limes continue to be associated with a number of alcoholic beverages, from margaritas to mojitos, but their refreshing, tart flavor also provides zing to pies and preserves, as well as fish and poultry marinades.

While there are several varieties of limes, the two most commonly available in the U.S. are Persian limes and Key limes.

Persian Limes:

When you think of limes, chances are Persian limes come to mind. This oval-shaped, smooth-skinned bright green fruit is the most common variety found at grocery stores.

Shop: Persian limes are available year-round. Look for brightly colored fruit that feels heavy for its size. Persian limes should feel hard when squeezed. A few brown spots won’t diminish the flavor, but avoid limes with hard, shriveled skins. Limes that are yellowish are still edible, but will not be as tart as fresh limes.

Store: Whole limes can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. Once limes are sliced, they will keep, covered, in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Use: Lime wedges make colorful garnishes, or you can squeeze the juice over fish. Lime juice can be made into beverages, pies and frozen desserts. Lime peel is also terrific used in marmalade.

Key (Mexican) Limes:

Key limes are small—think golf ball-size—round in shape and yellow-green in color. They have more seeds, are less acidic and are more sour-tasting than Persian limes.

Shop: The fruit is available year-round. Select smooth, firm fruit that is heavy for its size.

Store: Store Key limes in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Use: Without a doubt, Key limes are most often used to make Key Lime Pie, but they can also be used similarly to Persian limes (see above).

Helpful measurements:

1 medium lime = 1 to 2 tablespoons juice
1 medium lime = 1 to 2 teaspoons grated peel

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