Persian Lime: From a decorative element to an indispensable food

By Paola Ochoa, AGTools
It is said to be unknown, but whenever we look for something related to the Persian lime and its history, it takes us on a journey of more than 2,500 years to the Asian continent to be precisely in Assam, one of the states of India, passing to the Middle East and Africa, to finally enter Italy in 200 AD. The lime is a hybrid, a mixture of fruits created by humans. All citrus fruits come from the three original citrus fruits: citron, mandarin, and grapefruit. From the mix of citron and bitter orange, lime is created.

Although most Hispanic dishes now have either a few drops or a large amount of this citrus fruit, it is believed that it was not initially intended for consumption. Surprising as it may seem, this fruit was an ornamental plant in its beginnings, so the ancients used it for decoration.

Lime combines with any dish of Hispanic cuisine and even becomes a vital part of some European dishes or drinks. It goes well with oil, parsley, and mayonnaise. It revives the flavor of fish, meats, and seafood. It enhances the taste of salads, dressings, and vinaigrettes; its zest is indispensable in desserts. One cannot imagine enjoying a cold beer on a hot afternoon without the accompaniment of a slice of lime.

This is why countries such as Colombia and Honduras have significantly increased their production to supply the demand of the North American and European markets.

The active ingredient of Persian lime is citric acid. It also contains vitamin C, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, riboflavin, and vitamin B6. It has a low sugar content, and its calorie content is only 29 kcal per 100 g of lime.

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Its best-known medicinal property is its vitamin C content, which helps strengthen the immune system. This food is also rich in minerals such as potassium, magnesium, iron, and calcium. Its consumption provides flavonoids, phytonutrients designed to combat external agents that damage the body, such as pollution and ultraviolet rays. The potassium in lime has healing properties related to brain and nervous system health.

In the Hispanic market, the per capita consumption of lime is 7.2 kg per year, unlike the world average, which according to FAO, is 2 kilograms per capita per year. Adding lime to food symbolizes Hispanic identity because its consumption is deeply embedded in the culture.

In 2019 in the United States, 1.1 billion pounds of Persian limes were marketed in the United States, while in the year 2021, there was marketing of 1.5 billion pounds, which represents an increase of 36%, which we can appreciate in the following graph:

Persian lime

95% of these limes come from Mexico, which can supply consumer demand all year round. Since several states in this country produced this variety of lime in 2021, 53% of Mexican production was attributed to Michoacán and Veracruz states, with 27% and 26%, respectively. Within these states, Buenavista and Martínez de La Torre are the two municipalities that produce the most significant volume.

Colombia, which in 2021 was the second largest exporter of Persian limes to the United States, has had an increase in production volumes of 94% compared to 2020. This increase in production has been steady over the last seven years, reaching its highest export level in 2021.

Consumers’ desire to have Persian limes available year-round has made this citrus fruit very volatile in price. In 2022, consumers paid a minimum price of $0.14 a piece for each lime and reached highs of $0.67 nationwide.

And as if more reasons were needed to consume lime, it is said that drinking warm water with lime first thing in the morning acts as a cleansing agent for the entire system because stomach juices and lime juice are very similar to each other, so it helps loosen and eliminate toxins that fill the digestive tract.