Limes are valued for both their acidity of their juice and the floral aroma of their zest. Limes have lower acid and sugar content than lemons, and really pack a punch in the flavour stakes, being a key ingredient in Mexican, Vietnamese and Thai dishes.
Limes are also used extensively in drinks to add unparalleled flavour – from a wedge in the neck of your Corona to a chunky muddle in your mojito.
Limes are best suited for fresh applications, and both the juice and zest can be used. In fact, much of the lime’s flavour is concentrated in the skin or zest, so wherever possible an addition of the zest will enhance the lime experience.
Lime juice is a natural tenderizer for meats and is often used in marinades, particularly for dishes like ceviche. A squeeze of lime juice is often used as a finishing flavour, adding a hit of acidity and creating balance, especially to curries.
The juice can be used to flavour dressings, salsa and guacamole where it doubles as an anti-browning agent for the avocado.
Limes pair well with meats such as poultry, beef, pork and seafood, along with chilli, cauliflower, kale, onions, garlic, avocado, tomato, cucumber, mango, coconut, passionfruit, quinoa, rice and black beans, and herbs such as coriander, thyme and oregano.
Limes make a wonderful condiment, from an Indian pickle to a marmalade or curd or a versatile garnish adding colour and a useful dose of acidity.
They also please a pastry chef, offering a tart, yet aromatic flavour to sweet dishes.
Tahitian lime (also known as Bearss or Persian)
Is famed for its size and juiciness. A hybrid of a lemon and a Key lime, hence the larger size and lower acidity (when compared to the very tart Key lime). They are the most widely cultivated and consumed lime in the world. Originally from Western Asia, they were first grown on a larger scale in Persia and southern Iraq.
Mexican lime (also known as the Key lime)
Is smaller, seedier and has higher acidity than the Bearss lime. It also has a stronger aroma and thinner rind. Mexican lime is a rarer variety in New Zealand.
Makrut lime (previously known as Kaffir)
Is less attractive, small, bumpy, green and extremely bitter. They are not commonly used in the kitchen but are popular for traditional medicine and also for crafting homemade cleaning products. The Makrut lime leaf, however, is known as one of the most aromatic of all herbs. Makrut lime leaves are a common and distinctive ingredient in soups, marinades, curries and stir-fries. They also pair well with typical South East Asian flavours like ginger, lemongrass, shallots and chillies. These are available most of the year and can be frozen.