Key Lime

Sensuous Guatemala by Ken Veronda.


With highly acidic taste, a strong aroma and yellow-to-green color shades, the limes in Guatemala hit several senses—including touch, especially if a sharp spine pricks you while picking some off a tree. Those spines let you know these are Key limes, not the Persian lime more common in other parts of the world. The pungent taste make pies and cakes flavorful, especially when the Key lime juice is blended with condensed milk and baked into the pie that visitors to Florida love. Key limes carry the name of that string of Floridian islands, but they’re really from Asia originally, as all other citrus. Seeds made their way across North Africa into Andalucía, where the Spanish colonists took them to the West Indies and on into Guatemala. Key limes are smooth and round, green when picked turning to yellow when ripe, a more delicate yellow than lemons and definitely full of more flavor.

For English-speakers studying Spanish in Guatemala, limes get a bit confusing. Here, they’re limones. And the yellower citrus we call lemons are also limones. In Spanish, limas are not limes, but another citrus. Don’t ask me why.

Pyramids of Key limes are piled in Guatemalan fruit and vegetable markets all over the country, the rich green a pretty contrast to neighboring pyramids of red tomatoes, golden corn, purple eggplant and celadon-green heads of lettuce. Snap a picture with the señora’s permission as you explore the native markets, and when you’re inspired back home consider translating the rich colors into oils on your canvas.

Or you might satisfy another sense by baking an easy treat. When our Key lime tree is overloaded, I get the neighborhood kids to help squeeze juice and bake a pie: just beat five eggs, a can of sweetened condensed milk and a half-cup of juice, baked in a crust of Graham cracker crumbs. One day I let little Giovany use the egg beater to whip it up. He loved helping. The spots of pie filling were all over him and our kitchen to prove it. But the taste of our limones, Guatemala’s Key limes, were well worth the cleaning-up afterward.

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