I’ve mentioned my passion for lemons, but I also have an equally zealous zeal for the zest, juice, and aroma of limes. I happened across a bin of perfect looking limes at the grocery store priced ten for a dollar! I put a horde of the green goodies in a bag and then noticed something next to them. “Sweet limes” ~ $1.29 per pound. These were large, yellow and appeared to have a significantly thicker skin than their little green neighbors. Never before had I tried sweet limes but figured my tendency toward tart citrus ensured I would likewise enjoy these lemon colored limes. I picked out six firm, heavy specimens and put them in the cart. I couldn’t wait to get home and do a little research…and perhaps make some sweet limeade.
I learned that my ten-for-a-dollar “regular” limes – the one most commonly seen in the grocery store - are actually Persian limes (Citrus latifolia). The “sweet” limes or “limetta” (Citrus limettioides) are known as Palestine or Indian sweet limes. These are a less acidic cousin of the Persian limes and are ready to eat when yellow.
Having also read that sweet limes are a less flavorful member of the citrus family, I cut one open to see for myself. I discovered the scent (peculiarly reminiscent of Lemon Pledge) and sweet/tart flavor to be very light and delicate – indeed, almost completely nonexistent. Juicy? Very much so. Sweet? Definitely. (But, the peel and pith left a bitter aftertaste in my mouth – akin to grapefruit.) All of this made me hesitant to have them stand alone as a limeade.
However, I remember watching the movie The Darjeeling Limited in which three brothers travel by train across India. Throughout the movie, they regularly drink a sweet lime drink as well as consume copious amounts of marmalade made from the same. More research led me to learn that both are very popular in Indian cuisine. The limeade is purported to be both highly refreshing and a much celebrated digestion aid. (By the way, the sweet lime in India is called a mousambi). I found a dozen or more different recipes (and names!) both online and in my various cookbooks for this Indian style lime drink. They differ in ingredients ranging from sugar, salt, cumin, honey and more but all agree the end result has a mild taste. I tried a couple and found them simply too bland for me – the honey and cumin even seemed to tower over the subtle citrus flavor.
Maybe I will make the marmalade instead or use the remaining few to juice up my “regular” limeade (recipe below) - I will find a use for them yet!
Lemon or Limeade
10 lemons or 15 limes (sliced thin, end to end with a mandolin slicer)
1 to 1.5 cups sugar
5 cups of cold water (sparkling water adds a nice twist)
-Mash sliced fruit with one cup of sugar for 3-4 minutes in large, flat bottomed container until sugar is dissolved and fruit gives up its juice.
-Transfer bowl contents to pitcher fitted with strainer lid.
-Add 5 cups water and remaining sugar as needed. Stir to mix and serve over ice!