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They often grace the rims of glasses or lay along the edges of plates – but limes are so much more than a pretty accessory.
With their lip-smacking taste and citrusy bite, limes are one of the best fruits to get involved in the mix, whether you’re preparing a hot meal or the stiff drink to wash it down with.
And with their wide variety of cultivars, there are nearly as many types of limes to love as there are ways to love them.
Worth the Squeeze
Limes are often an afterthought of the citrus world, with the majority of attention going to their popular lemon cousins. But don’t let that fool you into thinking that limes are anything lesser.
In fact, limes are carriers of a higher sugar content than lemons, making them technically sweeter than their big, yellow brethren. And they pack at least as much vitamin C, making them a popular source of the stuff for centuries. (Limes were part of a daily citrus allowance for British sailors in the 1800s, which were issued to help keep scurvy at bay.)
Different types of limes are also an integral part of cultural cuisines all over the world, especially in their native Southeast Asia, where lime juice, zest and flesh are all big players in Vietnamese and Thai dishes, among others.
The sour ingredient helps round out the famously all-inclusive flavor palates of Indian food and even adds a dash of acid to help cut through creamy guacamole and other decadent Mexican meals.
And that’s to say nothing of the lime’s all-too-crucial appearance in any number of delicious cocktails – alcoholic or otherwise.
So what we’re trying to say is, there’s basically nothing these babies can’t do – especially when you have so many different types of limes to work with, including:
Something as strangely adorable as their namesake, these limes can definitely have even the most jaded of us wrapped around their finger.
That’s because they’re absolutely unique: To start, finger limes quite resemble an odd digit on the outside, taking on a longer, more oblong shape than your typical round little farmer’s market lime.
But they’re even more interesting on the inside. Rather than cutting open to reveal a traditional citrus fruit segmented slice, finger limes split open and spill over with a number of round little balls that burst open with perfect bites of lime juice.
In fact, the proliferation of little pearls looks much like another fancy food, lending finger limes the classy nickname of caviar limes.
Try pairing them with some dry crackers and expensive wine at your next dinner party, dahling!
Key Limes AKA Mexican Limes
Key lime pie is obviously one of the most delicious desserts out there, especially revered in its native Southern Florida – but, as it turns out, the name doesn’t come from the Florida Keys, but from the pie’s key ingredient.
While they once grew wild and free in the Keys, today these limes are mostly grown in their other namesake country: Mexico, having long been a staple in many of the area’s best dishes and drinks. (Like guacamole? Or margaritas? You can thank a Mexican lime for that.)
Key Limes are typically smaller, rounder and more yellow than other types of limes, partially because the fruits are picked while they’re still green, allowed to ripen – and, in this case, yellow – off the vine.
But Mexican Limes are also considered one of the most delicious types of limes out there, thanks to a particularly powerful balance of sweet and sour in their bite, making them the perfect pairing with anything from dinner to drinks – and helping the fruit earn the nickname bartender’s lime.
We’ll order another round of those!
More popularly grown and used in Southeast Asia, these types of limes might not seem to offer much on first glance.
Kaffir limes are typically too tart and far too acidic to cook with, and their tough, hard flesh bares little juice.
So why use them?
Well, Kaffir limes sport an especially thick skin, carrying tons of fantastic lime zest for the using, as well as a plethora of essential oils. In fact, it’s their rinds, rather than their flesh, that often appear in Thai curries and other Asian fare.
Sometimes, we guess, beauty really is skin deep.
Like the orange cousins with whom they share a name, blood limes sport an extra-spooky shade of flesh under their bumpy skin.
A deep crimson hue shouts out at you when cutting into these limes – which also sport unique outsides, growing in shades of red rather than their go-to green.
And blood limes also taste tangier than other types of limes, making them one of the weirdest – albeit tastiest – varieties of lime out there: A perfect Halloween treat.
And speaking of bloodlines – one of the more interesting citrus cross-breeds out there is the limequat.
The child of a key lime and a kumquat, these strange little beauties are the perfect eclectic mix for any citrus lover, with sweet-tasting bright yellow skin that looks more like a lemon and small segments of lime-flavored flesh inside.
But whether you find them in a pie, drink, curry – or a category all their own – the presence of a lime is nearly always the sign of a good time.