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Citrus latifolia, Persian lime (also known as Tahiti lime or Bearss lime), is a medium-sized, nearly thornless tree in the Rutaceae (citrus family) that produces the most commonly sold lime fruit. The Persian lime is of hybrid origin, most likely from a cross between key lime (C. aurantiifolia) and either lemon (C. limon) or citron (C. medica). Although there are numerous citrus species that are referred to as limes—including key lime, kaffir or makrut lime (C. hystrix), various Australian limes (C. glauca, C. australasica, and C. australis), Mandarin lime (C. limonia), sweet lime (C. limetta), and Palestine sweet lime (C. X limettioides), C. latifolia is the most commonly cultivated lime species for commercial use, and accounts for the largest share of the fruits sold as limes. (The name "lime" may, in the U.K., also refer to the unrelated, non-citrus linden tree, Tilia species.)

Persian lime is typically a medium-sized tree, 4.5 to 6.0 m tall (15 to 20 ft), with wide-spreading, drooping branches. In contrast to many other citrus species, it is often thornless or nearly so. The flowers are white, tinged with purple, and have no viable pollen. The fruit is oval or oblong fruit that is 4 to 6.25 cm (1.5 to 2.5 in) wide and 5 to 7.25 cm (2 to 3 in) long, often with nippled or elongated ends, generally seedless or few-seeded; it is larger and has thicker skins than those of its parent, the key lime. Although generally picked and sold when green, the fruit is yellowish green or yellow when fully ripe. The fruit has a fragrant, spicy aroma and tart flavor, but the aroma and flavor are less intense than those of key lime. However, its has various advantages over the key lime for the purposes of commercial agriculture--larger size, absence of seeds, hardiness, absence of thorns on the bushes, and longer fruit shelf life—that have combined to make it more widely cultivated. These differences are highlighted in the food website, The Nibble (http://www.thenibble.com/reviews/main/fruits/types-of-lime.asp).

Persian limes are used similarly to key limes, occasionally as a fresh fruit—generally, lime wedges are served as an accompaniment to salads, avocados, or Asian dishes—but more commonly processed into juice, for use in limeade and other non-alcoholic beverages, as well as cocktail beverages, including popular summertime drinks such as daiquiris, Cuban mojitos, and Brazilian caiparinhas.

Persian limes were first grown commercially in what is today southern Iraq and Iran, hence their name, although important varieties were developed in the U.S. (the common name “Bearss lime” refers to the seedless variety developed in 1895 by John T. Bearss in California), and Florida used to be the major producer of these limes. Persian lime rose to prominence after southern Florida’s key lime orchards were destroyed by a hurricane in 1926. However, the 1992 Hurricane Andrew then devastated Florida’s Persian lime orchards, virtually stopping U.S. production of the fruit. Mexico is now the primary grower and exporter of Persian limes for the American, European and Asian markets.

(Khan 2007, Morton 1987, Wikipedia 2012.)


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