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Castelo limes are small in size, averaging six centimeters in diameter, and are round to somewhat elliptical in shape with a short neck on one end. The thin rind is smooth with a leathery texture, transforms from green to pale yellow when mature, and bears many small pores that are visible across the skin. Underneath the rind, the yellow-green flesh is juicy, fine-grained, soft, filled with inedible seeds, and is divided into 10-12 segments by thin membranes. Castelo limes are aromatic and have a tart, very acidic taste with floral, herbal notes.
Castelo limes are available in the mid-fall through winter.
Castelo limes, botanically classified as Citrus aurantiifolia, are small fruits found on thorny, evergreen trees that can grow up to three meters in height and belong to the Rutaceae or citrus family. Also known as the Key lime, Mexican lime, West Indian lime, and Bartender’s Lime, depending on the region the fruit is grown in, Castelo limes grow in tropical to subtropical climates and are valued by chefs and home cooks for their tart juice and aromatic zest for both sweet and savory culinary applications.
Castelo limes are an excellent source of vitamin C and also contain zinc, iron, potassium, calcium, and phosphorus.
Castelo limes are best suited for fresh applications, and both the juice and zest can be used. The limes can be incorporated into jams, marinades, syrups, sauces, and marmalades and are mixed into juices, limeade, and cocktails to add a bright flavor. The limes are also popularly used in desserts such as cakes, pies, sorbet, and ice cream, and can be used in savory dishes including salads, tacos, Thai coconut chicken soup, pickled and fried as an appetizer, or garnished over grilled fish such as salmon. Castelo limes pair well with meats such as fish, poultry, pork, and beef, rice, quinoa, cilantro, bell pepper, green onions, garlic, onions, and tomatoes. The limes will keep up to two weeks when stored in a cool and dry place. The juice will keep for 2-3 months when stored in the freezer.
Castelo limes are most well-known for their use in Key lime pie which was created in the United States in the 1850s after condensed milk was invented for commercial use. Castelo limes are also used in savory dishes in Central America such as sopa de lima, which is a chicken soup with vegetables, and in liquors, cocktails, and pastries in Mexico. In addition to culinary applications, the lime juice has been used to dye leather in the Caribbean, while the powdered dried peel is used to clean metal in India. Castelo limes are also used medicinally in Malaysia to help reduce symptoms of stomach aches, liver problems, fevers, headaches, and coughs.
Limes are native to Asia in an area described as the Indo-Malayan region, which stretches from India to Southeastern Asia, including the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, and have been growing since ancient times. Castelo limes were then believed to have been brought to North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean region by Arabian traders in the 10th century and to the Western Mediterranean region by crusaders during the 11th and 12th centuries. On his second trip to the New World in 1493, Christopher Columbus introduced the fruits and the seeds to the West Indies where they were planted throughout the Caribbean, Mexico, and Florida. By 1883, Castelo limes were being grown commercially in Florida until a hurricane in the 1920s destroyed the majority of the crop. Today, Castelo limes are predominately grown in Mexico and Central America and can be found at farmers markets and specialty grocers in the United States, Mexico, Egypt, India, and the Caribbean.