The case of the mysterious Citric
Recipe to Lime Tart HERE.
It so happens that living in Dehradun involves getting a lot of fresh produce from your neighbours. Everyone seems to be growing their own fruits and vegetables here. We have our set of cherry tomatoes, lettuces and red cabbage. The Uniyal’s have long 2 meter sunflowers breaching over their fences that droop down to reach their gigantic taro leaves. Meanwhile, the Negi’s have the smallest patch of land for gardening yet they seem to be growing the most: shallots, garlic, ginger, turmeric, potatoes, taro and a tiny mysterious lemon tree.
Yesterday, they sent a bag filled with 8-9 lemons or limes. They were gorgeous so big and green, nothing like the kind I usually see I’ve in my city life back in Bangalore.
I’ve been wanting to make a key lime pie for a very long time. I was hoping that this was key lime actually I’m still not sure exactly what kind of lemon/lime this is- though I have some guesses. I texted my boss and he thought it possibly could be a hybrid between lime and a Gondhoraj. That’s when I realised I don’t know my Indian lemons and limes or my citrics in general.
Research Research RESEARCHHH
It turns out that lemons might have originated from India, mostly Assam. In the book by Toby Sonneman, called “Lemon: A Global History”, apparently the Arabs took the lemons from India and refined its cultivation and made it popular in Spain, Italy, North Africa (can you actually imagine Mediterranean food without lemons?!) to the point that the Romans were using it in the 1st AD. The romans had lemons before but they were called citron, round with a thick rind and not a lot of juice. Lemons are actually a mix of orange and a citron. Even the origin of the word lemon traces its history back to the Sanskrit word Nimbu which is a cognate of the Persian word limun, which water later adapted in Old French as limon.
When I started working at the studio, I realised that I’ve been using limes and lemon interchangeably. There is a difference between them. In India, however both of them are called nimbu. Limes are is smaller, green and taste more bitter and sour while lemons are bigger, green and comparatively sweeter. Limes also predate lemons.
Some Indian limes include:
Rangpur Lime: This is actually a mix between a mandarin orange and a citron and are named after the town in Bangladesh from where they belong. They are also called Canton Limes in Southern China.
Gondhoraj: This is heavy on fragrance and is a massive flavour bomb, almost similar to its cousin Kaffir Limes. This is a bright green oblong lime (similar to the ones the Negi’s gave me). It barely has any juice and has pale insides but the scent is strong with this one. It’s often eaten along side with fish, curry and chicken. The zest, leaves and even the dried form of it is used in various Bengali dishes.
Source of Image here
Mexican lime Kargzi: This is also known as key lime and it grows in a huge belt in India including AP, TN, Maharastra, Gujrat, Rajasthan, Bihar. Even within these there are four more varieties: Vikram, Prumalini, PKM and said sharbati.
Persian lime: I think this is the the mysterious lime that the Negi’s gave to me. This is a mix between a key lime and a lemon and is also known as a seedless lime! The limes that were given were seedless too! The fruit turns yellow as it ripens but is mostly plucked out when it is green. What makes it different from key limes is that it is thicker and it has a less intense aroma and bitterness. They were first grown in a large scale in Persia and is placed in dishes after drying.
Source of image here
Some Lemons include:
Lisbon Lemon: low-yielding and short-lived in India. This variety is a pale yellowish green and of medium size. It’s juicy but also very acidic. I have a feeling though I’m not certain that I might have seen these or maybe another type of lemon similar to this called Villa Franca in my trip to Chakrata in Uttrakhand. Lemons are very common in Uttrakhand, however the one I saw was short-lived in seasonal and incredibly big. A dish called sand Hua nimbu made from local lemons, jaggery, paste of hemp seeds, mint and chilli mixed with curd is made as it keeps the body warm and is good for digestion.
Nemu Tenga: Grows in Assam This cultivar also has a yellowish-green peel and smooth, glossy skin. It has 11 segments, medium acidity and few to no seeds. This variety is one of the commercially grown cultivars of lemons.
Nepali round: This is found mostly in south India and its incredibly juice and seedless.
After scouting the internet and looking at various books, including Feast and Fasts by Sen Colleen and KT Achaya I’ve realised there isn’t much research done on lemons at all! We must have so many varieties to fill an entire book with it. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen so many different varieties of lemon growing here in Uttrakhand which we don’t even know the name of. I’m sure I’ve misplaced the lemon I’ve seen for a Lisbon Lemon. Needless, to say the lime that the Negi’s gave was perhaps one of the best limes I’ve had in my life. It was relatively sweet and so fresh! I feel like I’ve been missing out on the importance of this acidic fruit my entire life. I did end up making a pie out of it. I’m going to call it Persian Lime Pie. (Recipe probably up on the next post!)
Sources referred to:
Feast and Fasts by Sen Colleen
Indian Food: A Historical Companion KT Achaya