The origin of the lime lies in southeast Asia. The trees are best suited for subtropical environments, which makes the hot and humid climate of southern Asia ideal. Like many spices that have been in use for centuries, the details of lime zest’s origin as a culinary ingredient are not well documented; however, it most likely lies in southeast Asia. Lime zest has long been used in Thai curry and Sri Lankan cuisine among other in the region.
They were brought from Southeast Asia to the Middle East by Arab traders. The trader’s efforts are responsible for the cultivation of limes in Egypt and in North Africa. These traders would also introduce limes to Spain in the 13th century; they would also be distributed throughout Europe after the crusades.
Spanish colonists would bring limes to the US in the 16th century. They would also start the cultivation of the West Indian Lime in the Florida Keys, which resulted in the key limes that we have today. The Spaniards would also attempt to grow lime trees in California, but the climate there was unsuitable. Today, much of the world’s lime supply comes from the US.
Lime zest flavor profile
Like other forms of citrus zest, limes offer flavor without bitterness from the pith. Zest offers some of the tart notes that you would get from lime juice, but is more intensely fragrant than the juice alone would be.
Health benefits of lime zest
Lime zest contains a variety of nutrients that make it a valuable addition to your diet. Here is some of what you can get from lime zest:
- Beta-carotene: The color of lime zest is the result of its beta-carotene content. That beta-carotene is a form of vitamin A that is converted into retinol in the body.
- Limonene: Like the zests of other citrus fruits, the zest of the lime contains the compound limonene. Limonene is a terpene with several health benefits.
- Antioxidants: Lime zest is flavorful because of the essential oils it contains. In addition to being the source of the lime aroma and flavor, the oil in lemon zest contains multiple antioxidants that fight free radicals in your body.
Compounds in lime zest make it useful for treating and preventing health conditions like:
- Cancer: Limonene has been shown to be effective against renal cancer and other cancers.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): Limonene is able to neutralize gastric acid, which makes it a useful treatment for GERD.
- Eye problems: The retinol from lime zest can help to prevent various eye problems, including macular degeneration.
Common uses of lime zest
One of the most popular uses is in desserts such as key lime pie. Lime zest is also a popular seasoning for seafood. For example, both the zest and the juice are often used on fish. Lime zest is commonly used for flavoring in Mexican, Thai, and Vietnamese dishes. In Thailand, it is often pounded with a mortar and pestle before being added to soups and stews. Indonesian cooks add it to fish cakes and to soups. In addition to its traditional uses, you can also use it in vinaigrettes to give citrus flavor to a salad and in dry rubs to give a tangy flavor to grilled or roasted meat. It is also one of the best substitutes for kaffir lime leaves, which are difficult to find in the US.
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