Winter is my least favorite season, but there’s one aspect that I like: fresh local citrus. Our Washington navel oranges won’t be ready for another month, but our limes are ripe now.
Our tree, a Bearss or Persian lime (Citrus latifolia), is on the edge of our driveway right by the sidewalk. There it gets about 8 hours of sun in the summer. We put it in the ground about 10 years ago as a smallish 5-gallon plant, and for the first five years it didn’t have a single fruit even though it flowered sporadically. I was very close to removing it when it finally started to produce. It must have heard and understood my threat!
|Our Bearss lime tree next to the driveway|
John T. Bearss developed this seedless variety in 1895 in his nursery in Central California. It’s hardy, thornless, and produces relatively large fruit with a long shelf life. In fact, when you buy a lime in a U.S. grocery store, it’s almost always a Bearss lime. The only other lime variety of commercial significance is the Key lime, and it’s significantly smaller.
Commercial operations harvest Bearss limes when they’re still green, but we leave ours on the tree until they turn yellow. That’s when they are fully ripe. On the outside, they are virtually indistinguishable from a lemon at that point (in fact, they’re a dead ringer for a Meyer), but the inside is still green and the flavor is limey perfection.
|Ripe limes on the tree|
|On the outside, it looks just like a Meyer lemon…|
|…but inside it’s greener (although this particular one doesn’t look very green in this photo)|
As much as I love lemons, I actually find limes to be even more versatile. They’re great in beverages and baking, and they’re indispensable in cooking (we make a lot of Thai-inspired dishes). Since we only pick what we need when we need it and leave the rest on the tree, we can usually make lime season stretch into February. The day we pick the last lime is a sad occasion; it means we’ll have to make do with store-bought limes for the next nine months. They’re still good, but not quite the same.