Lime Correspondent: The Origin of Limes

By Patrick Gallagher
Blogger

Seeing the title of this article, you may be asking yourself, “Why limes?” It is not only the purpose of this article, but the duty of its author to bring an answer. To begin, let us ask, “What are limes?” Limes are small green citrus, usually associated with its cousin, the lemon. However, that seems to be common knowledge. From where does the lime originate? What uses has it had historically? What is the lime’s impact on cuisine around the world?

Let's talk about limes. (boomvapour.com)
Let’s talk about limes. (boomvapour.com)

During the 18th century, the greatest enemy that the British Navy faced was not the Spanish Armada, but the harsh Mistress known as Scurvy. A lack of Vitamin C resulted in sailors dying at the hands of this accursed condition, until the Scottish naval surgeon Sir James Lind realized that citrus could be a remedy. Lemons were exported by Mediterranean nations, which were often at war with Britain, so the naval powerhouse sought another citrus: limes.

Though this mighty fruit has lent its hand to the British, the most common type of lime, known as the Persian Lime, has origins in the Middle East. The fact that we in the West find uses for it in everyday cooking is a testament to its versatility. From Mexico to Thailand, the lime thrives, hailed for its acidic juice and zesty aroma. The powers of the lime do not stop at just cuisine — its juices are used in perfumes and aromatherapy, and the leaves of the Kaffir lime are sought for their medicinal properties in nations such as Indonesia.

Let us ask again: “Why limes?” Over the course of the semester, I hope to make it so that when someone asks you “Why limes?” you can give just as good an answer as my own.

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