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Choosing lemons and limes


JAZ
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In my old neighborhood, I got spoiled buying citrus -- I could almost always buy lemons at 5/$1 and limes for half that. The quality wasn't always the best, but even when they were a little old, they seemed to have lots of juice. Now, not only are lemons and limes really expensive, but I seem to be running into a depressing number of dried out fruit -- limes especially.

I wonder why that is, but more important, I wonder if there are reliable ways to predict which fruit will be the juiciest. From casual observation, it seems to me that the driest limes have had really dark, rough skin, but I don't know if this is an indicator, or merely a coincidence. It certainly doesn't seem to be the case that old limes are drier -- I've used limes (and lemons) with spots that are quite juicy. In fact, once in a while, I've cut into one that's actually started to turn brown inside -- I haven't used them, but they seem to still have plenty of juice left.

With lemons, it seems to be a different story. I rarely find lemons that are dried out in the same way as limes (oranges also seem to suffer from desiccation), but I have bought more than a few that have such thick skins that the actual fruit is tiny and thus produces very little juice. I try to get lemons that give a little with pressure, but then sometimes that backfires and I end up with a spoiled one.

So, essentially, I'm at a loss. Anyone have tried and true methods for estimating juice content for citrus fruit?

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it may seem obvious, but the rule of thumb i give my cooking students is that "heavy for its size is a good indicator of freshness." produce is mostly water weight, and as the produce sits around, in the warehouse or on the shelf, moisture evaporates through the skin. we have a natural "scale" in our heads, that tells us how heavy that artichoke or lemon will feel when we pick it up. if it feels heavier than we expect, chances are good that it is fairly fresh. if it feels a lot lighter than expected, it has probably been sitting around too long. that's my method, anyhoo...

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What they said.

With regard to lemons, you're right that the rind with a bit of "give" to it is less likely to be superthick...but then, you're running the risk of getting an older lemon on the verge of spoilage. I use the "heavy for its size" test, but with lemons I also check how lumpy the rind is. Large lumps seem to correlate with thick skins, possibly because those lumps are magnified by thick cell walls.

Oh. Check the smell, also. You should be able to smell a good ripe citrus fruit, and pick the better fruit out by the stronger good aroma.

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And dont forget lots of California fruit was picked early this year because of the weather.

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I've heard that "heaviness" is a good indicator as well, but in practice, I guess I don't feel much difference, in limes at least. There seems to be more difference among lemons.

However, as far as age goes, it doesn't seem to me that age correlates with juiciness. As I mentioned above, I've cut into limes with brown spots, even ones whose flesh has started to turn a little brown and they're still very juicy (even though I've been too cautious to use the juice when the flesh is brownish).

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I've heard that "heaviness" is a good indicator as well, but in practice, I guess I don't feel much difference, in limes at least. There seems to be more difference among lemons.

However, as far as age goes, it doesn't seem to me that age correlates with juiciness. As I mentioned above, I've cut into limes with brown spots, even ones whose flesh has started to turn a little brown and they're still very juicy (even though I've been too cautious to use the juice when the flesh is brownish).

Just last night I neded a lime for my wife's cocktail. In my crisper I had a couple that did not look so good on the outside, but the one I choose was full of nice tart juice. Tough time of year for citrus, but I agree that limes in particular will give good juice, even if they don't look so good

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I tend to pick thin skinned lemons - maybe it is aesthetics for me but the thick skin isn't appealing. Is that really an indicator for juice content?

Citrus can really be difficult - it is a very delicate "animal".

We have a "citrus" tree in our home but the fruit is very confusing - it starts off green, turns yellow then turns orange and the fruit is very bitter. It is beautiful to look at and this year I invested in a Meyer lemon tree so hopefully my citrus woes will be over.

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the heavy for its size test is pretty good, so i'll second that. but i find with limes, more so than with lemons, that if you give them a small squeeze, they should be a bit tender. the harder the lime, the drier the interior.

this is all cocktail research isn't it? :cool:

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it may seem obvious, but the rule of thumb i give my cooking students is that "heavy for its size is a good indicator of freshness."  produce is mostly water weight, and as the produce sits around, in the warehouse or on the shelf, moisture evaporates through the skin. we have a natural "scale" in our heads, that tells us how heavy that artichoke or lemon will feel when we pick it up. if it feels heavier than we expect, chances are good that it is fairly fresh. if it feels a lot lighter than expected, it has probably been sitting around too long.  that's my method, anyhoo...

It's called "density," of course, and I think you've articulated the concept extremely well.

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We have a "citrus" tree in our home but the fruit is very confusing - it starts off green, turns yellow then turns orange and the fruit is very bitter.  It is beautiful to look at and this year I invested in a Meyer lemon tree so hopefully my citrus woes will be over.

That's a really interesting tree you have. Do you know what kind of orange it is? For instance - is it a Seville (a.k.a. "bitter") orange?

Meyer lemons are great. If I ever get back to someplace that I can have a thriving tree outside, I hope to do a "fruit salad" tree like my dad did for his dad. He grafted several citrus onto the same tree, so that Papa had a tree with tangerines, lemons, grapefruit and oranges on it. He might even have had valencia and navel oranges together...I've forgotten for sure.

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

Follow us on social media! Facebook; instagram.com/egulletx; twitter.com/egullet

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)
"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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