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Morton, J. 1987. Sweet Lime. p. 175–176. In: Fruits of warm climates. Julia F. Morton, Miami, FL.


Sweet Lime

Citrus limettioides Tan.

C. lumia Risso et Poit.




The sweet lime, Citrus limettioides Tan. (syn. C. lumia Risso et Poit.), is called limettier doux in French; lima dulce in Spanish; mitha limbu, mitha nimbu, or mitha nebu, in India (mitha meaning "sweet"); quit giây in Vietnam; limûn helou, or succari in Egypt; laymûn-helo in Syria and Palestine. It is often confused with the sweet lemon, C. limetta Tan., (q.v. under LEMON) which, in certain areas, is referred to as "sweet lime". In some of the literature, it is impossible to tell which fruit is under discussion.

Description

The tree, its foliage, and the form and size of the fruit resemble the Tahiti lime; the leaves are serrated and the petioles nearly wingless. The fruit is not at all similar to the Mexican lime. The flowers are borne singly in the leaf axils or in terminal clusters of 2 to 10; the fruits may be solitary or in bunches of 2 to 5.

Origin and Distribution

It is not known where or how the sweet lime originated, but it is thought to be a hybrid between a Mexican-type lime and a sweet lemon or sweet citron. Mediterranean botanists refer to it as native to India. Central and northern India, northern Vietnam, Egypt and other countries around the coasts of Mediterranean, and tropical America, are the chief areas of cultivation. It came to the United States from Saharanpur, India, in 1904 (S. P. I. #10365).

There is very limited culture in California where the fruits produced by desert-grown trees differ markedly from those in cooler coastal regions. It is not grown for its fruit nor used as a rootstock in Florida because of its high susceptibility to viruses. In India and Israel it is much utilized as a rootstock for the sweet orange and other Citrus species.

Varieties

There are said to be several strains in India differing in fruit shape and tree productivity.

'Indian' ('Palestine')–oblong, ovoid or nearly round, with rounded base and small nipple at apex, occasionally slightly ribbed; peel aromatic, greenish to orange-yellow when ripe, smooth, with conspicuous oil glands, thin; pulp pale-yellow, usually in 10 segments, tender, very juicy, non-acid, bland, faintly bitter. The tree may be large or shrubby; is spreading, irregular, thorny, with leaves resembling those of the orange but paler and with more prominent oil glands, their petioles faintly winged. Buds and flowers are white. The tree is hardier than that of the acid lime; bears late in the rainy season in India when other citrus fruits are out-of-season.

'Columbia'–a clonal selection mentioned by Reuther et al. (Citrus Industry, Vol. 1, rev'd, 1967).

'Soh Synteng'–a strongly acid variation in Assam with new shoots and flower buds briefly pinkish.

Pollination

The sweet lime is self-compatible. In studies aimed at improving yield, Indian scientists found that self-pollination results in maximum fruit set, while cross-pollination with sweet orange or grapefruit results in greater fruit retention, at the same time increasing fruit size and seed count. Therefore, the practice of interplanting with sweet orange and grapefruit has been adopted in commercial orchards.

Propagation

In India, the sweet lime is grown from cuttings.

Food Uses

In the West Indies and Central America, the fruits are commonly enjoyed out-of-hand. The stem-end is cut off, the core is pierced with a knife, and the juice is sucked out. The fruit is eaten fresh in India as well as cooked and preserved.

The hand-pressed peel oil has a strong lemon odor. It contains pinene, limonene, linalool, linalyl acetate and possibly dipentene and citral.

Medicinal Uses

In India the sweet lime is therapeutically valued for its cooling effect in cases of fever and jaundice.