Historical Benefits to Sailors
Limes may be most famous for their historical benefits to sailors. Limes are packed with Vitamin C and were eaten on ships to prevent scurvy, a disease caused by that vitamin deficiency. In the eighteenth century, all British naval ships assigned to long journeys were required to carry limes. The nickname 'limeys' for British sailors has continued to this day.
Limes were originally grown on the Indian subcontinent and were popularized in Europe about the time of the Crusades. In the United States, limes were established in what is now named Florida by the sixteenth century. Today limes are grown in Florida, the Southwest, and California.
Select limes that are glossy and light to deep green in color. Limes should have a thin, smooth skin and be heavy for their size. Small brown areas on the skin should not affect flavor, but large blemishes or soft spots indicate a damaged lime. Ripe limes are firm, but not hard. Avoid limes that have a yellowish skin or are too small. A hard shriveled skin is a sign of dryness, as is a coarse thick skin. Limes are available year round in most supermarkets.
Limes may be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Limes store better in a plastic bag if placed in the refrigerator and those stored at room temperature will yield more juice. Take care to keep limes out of direct sunlight as they will shrivel and become discolored.
Varieties of Limes
The majority of limes are part of the Tahitian strain, believed to have originated in Tahiti. There are two common varieties of that strain: Persian and Bearss. The Persion is egg-shaped and contains seeds. The Bearss is smaller and seedless. Key limes are smaller and rounder than the Tahitian strain and have a higher acid content. These limes are mostly used in baking.
Wash well before using, even if you are only using the juice. Limes are usually eaten raw, but may be included in baked or grilled dishes. Many recipes call for fresh lime juice. To juice by hand, roll the lime on a firm surface before squeezing out the juice.
Limes are also often used as garnish. Simply slice the lime in half and slice into several sections. Limes or lime juice are a great salt substitute and add a tangy flavor.
If you're trying to cut back on salt, try serving wedges of fresh lemon or lime on the table in place of the salt shaker. A healthy squeeze of lime or lemon juice perks up salads, chicken, seafood and beverages. Lime works wonders as a flavor-enhancing meat tenderizer. Squeeze lime or lemon juice onto avocado, apples, pears, bananas or peaches to prevent them from getting brown (by retarding oxidation, proof of their antioxidant powers).
Super Summer Treats
In the summer, fill ice cube trays with water, then squeeze in a twist of lime or lemon - add some zest, too. the cubes will add refreshing flavor to water or club soda.
Key Lime Milkshake: Blend 1 pint vanilla frozen yogurt, 1/2 cup milk, and the zest and juice of 6 Key limes.
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