The Citrus Trail

Even within the flavor and fragrance industry itself, there is often a certain amount of confusion surrounding lime and its derivative, lime essential oil. The confusion stems largely from the fact that there are actually two different types of lime, which are most often used in essential oil production — the Persian lime (Citrus latifolia) and the Key lime (Citrus aurantifolia). The cause of clarity isn’t helped by the fact that in Spanish and Portuguese, the languages of several major lime producing countries, the word for lime, “limon”, is actually the same as the word for lemon. The authorities themselves aren’t above the confusion either, with several offi cial reports having been released in regards to the quantities of lemon grown in Peru, only for people to realize that the reports were actually referring to Key limes. The exception to this confusion is France, where there are two very different words for the two main varieties — “limette” (Key lime) and “citron vert” (Persian lime).

Persian Limes Persian limes are the larger of the two varieties. They grow on almost thornless trees and are seedless and similar in size and shape to lemons. Grown in signifi cant quantities in Mexico and Brazil, where they are called Tahiti limes, and to a lesser extent in Florida, the Persian lime is popular as a fresh fruit and for use in catering due to its seedless nature. In Brazil, the national drink, the “caipirinha”, is a lively mixture of lime, distilled sugar cane, sugar and ice and accounts for the popularity of the Persian lime in that country. It’s also grown in smaller quantities in Spain and Argentina for the local fresh fruit markets.

Expressed lime oil is generally, but not always, derived from the Persian lime. In Brazil, Tahiti lime oil (from the cold pressed Persian lime) is a by-product of the production of lime juice. It is also signifi cantly infl uenced by orange production, which is the dominant citrus fruit in the country. Lime processing generally takes place during the quieter periods of orange production and the quantities of Tahiti lime oil produced can vary from 15-50 tonnes per year.

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