Lime – The Most Sour Fruit

Lime has a scientific name of Citrus aurantium L..  It is a small citrus tree of the family Mieba Memo. It has many thorns on its branches, with deep green oval shape leaves, narrow side as base.  Racemes with few flowers, oval or nearly spherical flower buds.  Fruit is round or oblate, skin is slightly thick to very thick, difficult to peel, skin color from orange to red ink, solid core or half full, the pulp is sour, sometimes bitter or with specific odor, and large seeds.

China Lime originated in the southern slope of Qinling Mountains to the South around.  Currently this species is widely cultivated around the Yangtze River Valley and the provinces of South China, Vietnam, Burma, India and also Japan.  Currently, India and Mexico are the biggest lime producers in the world which are producing 2.5 and 2.1 million tons per year respectively.  China is at the 3rd place at 1.9 million tons yearly.

It is widely used as rootstock for grafting sweet orange and mandarin orange.  Lime likes warm but humid environment, like places with abundant rainfall but sunny climate conditions, generally with the annual average temperature above 15oC.  Lime can adopt to wide variety of soil, whether is red and yellow soils; the best is with neutral, sandy loam, not too sticky heavy soil cultivation.

Seeds should be planted into a sandy soil, the effective temperature at germination is more than 10 oC but most suitable between 20-25 oC.  But it can endure a low temperature up to -9 oC for a short period of time.  When there is sufficient irrigation, it can tolerate a very hot weather up 40 oC without falling of leaves.

Generally, Lime will start bearing fruits in 4 to 5 years, for aerial layering or grafting trees.  While for seedlings, it will only began to blossom and bear fruit after 8 to 10 years of planting.  The tree can grow more than 50 years.  Florescence usually is between month of April and May while fruit bearing period is between months of September and December every year.

Pure lime fruit juice can contain as high as 43% of citric acid which is a form of Vitamin C.  This is the highest among all citrus fruits.  Averagely, it has 88% of water, 10% of carbohydrates and less than 1% of fat and protein respectively.  Through manufacturing processes, it can be further be concentrated to be used as raw material in chemical, food, pharmacy and even textile industry.  Of course it is mostly used to make into can or bottled drinks, purees, mixed into other fruits as fruit punch concentrates, preserves fruit and sweet jams.  On top the above, aromatic oil can be extracted from the skin of lime or refined into pectin, jelly.

Lime is one of the most commonly used herbs in Chinese medicine.  When using the fruit as it is still green, it can help to sooth all types of indigestion symptoms.  It can also help to sooth cough and clear the throat and lung for smoother breathing.