Kaffir Lime(Citrus hystrix). Also called kieffer lime, makrut and magrood. Native to Indonesia, the leaf of the kaffir lime (shown at right) is used in Thai, Malaysian and Indonesian cuisines. It looks like a round Persian lime, but the skin is bumpy instead of smooth. The juice is very strong and tangy/sour and is used in medicine. Kaffir limes are easily distinguished by their extremely bumpy, deep green skin and their slightly elongated neck. The aroma from the aromatic oils, and flavor of this intense lime, produce a unique flavor. Kaffir limes are delicious with savory dishes and add a tangy lift to spicy homemade chili, soup and stews. The dark green glossy leaves are extremely rich in lemon-lime fragrance, which is even more intense when the leaves are broken.
The leaves imbue dishes with a delicate yet bold lemon-lime flavor, which is memorable in Thai curries, sauces and fish. They can be used in American chili and soup recipes as well.
Photo of kaffir leaves above, and the kaffir lime at left, courtesy of Melissas.com.
Key Lime (Citrus aurantifolia Swingle). Also known as the Mexican lime, West Indies lime and Bartender’s lime, the highly-aromatic Key lime is grown in the Florida Keys, Mexico and the West Indies. It is smaller and round, the size of a ping pong ball, and more fragrant and less acidic. The color can range from a regular lime green to yellow in color, depending on ripeness. Those not familiar with it can mistake it for a lemon, but the skin is smooth, thin-skinned and full of small seeds. It also has a distinct, tart, but less acid, juice than the Persian lime. Both are the only two limes, acid or sour, that are commercially grown.
Key limes. Photo courtesy of
The term “Key” lime is an American retronym; this is the same lime brought back to Europe from the Crusades. Its name comes from the Persian, limu. It was later planted in Florida, Mexico and the Caribbean (see the history, above). In addition to making Key lime pie (don’t buy juice in bottles!), add slices to marinades, sauces, fruit salads, and pastries to enliven other flavors.
Limequat (Citrus x Fortunella). A lime-kumquat hybrid originating in China, and now grown around the world—in the U.S., in California and Florida. The fruit can be found during the fall and winter months. There are three distinct varieties, Eustis, Lakeland and Tavares. The fruit is small and oval like the kumquat, but greenish yellow instead of orange. Like the kumquat, it is entirely edible; the skin is sweet and the pulp tastes like lime. It is eaten whole or used to flavor drinks and dishes and makes for a bittersweet flavor. The rind is fragrant and fairly thin, covering an acidic, fleshy interior. Although the limequat can be served fresh and added to salads, it is more commonly cooked and used to make syrups and preserves.