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Jan 23, 2013 10:03 AM

Conchs, speak up on key limes, please.

In the Florida Keys, a key lime is a little yellow thing with a distinctly piney scent. You can't just walk into a supermarket down there and buy a bag of them either; not the real ones, at least.

Even in the Keys, fakery is rampant in bars and supermarkets alike.

So what is the likelihood of encountering the real thing in any form outside south Florida?

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  1. there hasn't been a commercial key lime industry in Florida in many, many years. Even the ones in Key West probably came in from Mexico.

    BUT...their size, and the unique combination of green flesh and yellow skin make them pretty hard to counterfeit...and nobody is ever going to sneak Persian lime past someone who's had the chance to taste both.

    2 Replies
    1. re: sunshine842

      A Persian lime, no. A Creole lime.........well, it depends. Certainly I've seen a few creole limes (to save a little time, Creoles are the limes that usually show up around late winter early spring, the juicy ones with the smooth pale green shiny skins) whose pale green approaced the color a legit key lime rind gets (especially one that isn't quite ripe yet and has yellowed up all the way). I have also seen some limes being sold recently that are sort of "in the middle"; too round and small to be Persians/Creoles too big and green to be keys (key lines are about gumball to walnt size, these are the size of a squash or raquet ball) being sold as keys (maybe they're some sort of key/persian hybrid). I also think at least once I saw a key sized lime (in a bag of "normal" keys that had the dark green bumpy skin of a Persian (but that was probably some sort of odd sport).

      1. re: jumpingmonk

        Interesting post. Here I am in NoCal and now I find out that all these green things that are being sold as Key limes really aren't. I'm always learning things here. Thanks.

    2. In season, Grocers like Publix sell them, usually in net bags by the pound, at least as north as Tampa.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Veggo

        No,Veggo, that's the aforementioned rampant fakery.

        1. re: Veggo

          So, Veg, are they green or yellow?

          1. re: c oliver

            Greenish-yellow, perfectly spherical, ping pong ball size or smaller, lots of seeds.

        2. I was so excited to try key limes in Florida, but when I did, I realized that they are basically the same thing as calamansi limes (my favorite!) that I grew up with! Both have a complex flavor and a subtle numbing effect that I adore. YUM. You can purchase calamansi limes fresh and frozen (frozen 100% calamansi juice is excellent) in lots of Asian stores.

          5 Replies
          1. re: akq

            numbing effect? i've never gotten that from any key lime.

            1. re: alkapal

              if key limes numb your mouth, you probably should ease up on the rum a little.

              1. re: sunshine842

                I can sort of get what he is saying. A key lime probably would numb one's mouth....if one was in the habit of eating the peel along with the fruit or biting it off . The essential oils in citrus peel are astringents and so if you get them in your mouth driectly the sensation could be described as nunmbing. most people experiance it with kumquats (where eating the peel is normal) but depending on what the poster means by Calamansi (depending on where you live, that could be the green skinned, orange fleshed ciutrus fruit of Asia, or it could be the caldomin orange (the one a lot of people keep as a houseplant) those also might be eaten with peel. And since the peel of a real key limes is smooth and thin, and the pith layer minimal (that's important, the bitterness of the pith is the main obstacle to peel consuption on most citrus) , you could eat a key out of hand, and the effect probably would be very much like eating a caldomin or possibly a true calamansi (which I have never seen being sold fresh. I wish I did, I'd love to plant the pits from one to add to my tree collection)

                1. re: jumpingmonk

                  Yup. Maybe not everyone feels the numbing sensation? What a shame! I get the sensation from key lime juice just like from calamansi.
                  I meant Asian calamansi, popular in the Philippines. We had a tree in our backyard in Hawaii. Tasty little things! I read that key limes are decended from calamansi brought from southeast Asia.

                  1. re: jumpingmonk

                    whooo -- i cannot imagine eating a key lime out of hand! LOL, my mouth is puckering up even as i think of it.

                    my uncle had kumquats, and those were tart enough. lovely taste sensation, those kumquats.

            2. If you're looking just for juice, Nellie and Joe's key west lime juice is authentic key lime juice.

              1. got them last year at trader joe's in northern virginia.