Wild Limes

Provenance and the Plant

Just the name of this fabulous little fruit is evocative and excites the cook's imagination! What can it be like? Out of a wonderful field of candidates, the Wild Lime is doubtless among the elite in terms of flavour and visual beauty. It resembles a perfect miniature lime, and its flavour is closely aligned to the West Indian Lime. Unlike other citrus it has a very porous and very thin skin, but the juicy segmented flesh is just like other citrus - but on a much smaller scale. The skin and flesh both, are a yellowish, lime greenish colour.

Australia's Wild Lime is a true citrus. It is very juicy and this is surprising as it is classified botanically as a xerophyte, that is, a drought-tolerant plant that actually thrives in hot and dry climates. The Wild Lime is the only member of the orange sub-family that is able to withstand severe drought and hot, dry winds. When these conditions occur the tree sheds its leaves and the leafless grey-green twigs carry on photosynthesis at a reduced rate. When conditions ease, the leaves grow back. The Wild Lime also has a high tolerance to freezing temperatures. It can withstand, without severe injury, temperatures of 55C below zero! In this respect the Wild Lime ranks a close second to the Chinese cumquat in its resistance to cold. The Wild Lime, in its natural state, is a small , woody tree found on heavy clay soils and it grows in clumps or dense thickets. When young the plant has blue/grey leaves and spiny thorns growing along the branches. More mature plants lose their spines. They usually flower from September and the wonderful fruits follow around late December, in the heat of the summer.

When we began sourcing native Australian ingredients (about 30 years ago!) the only Wild Limes available were those remnant patches on the beef cattle grazing plains of outback Queensland. We had to convince landholders to not clear the patches of Wild Limes. They thought of them as an invasive woody pest but over time we managed to convince many of them to harvest the crops. The image below is a picture of a fully grown Wild Lime out on the black soil plains of Outback Queensland, replete with the ladder ( and landowner) to climb up and pick them - as the fruit always grows on the top crown of the tree! The accompanying photo , by contrast, is of a young Wild Lime plantation that we have supported through the Outback Spirit Foundation, in South Australia.

Our wonderful Wild Limes are plantation grown come from Outback Queensland and Western Australia.

and this is a picture of the limes on the tree being wild harvested as was the only way back in those days

Wild Limes on wild trees - ready to pick 

Young Wild Lime plantation in SA

Prolific fruits on cultivated Wild Limes

Culinary Uses

Wild Lime Friands

This deliciously tart and acidic fruit tastes strongly of lime (as you would expect) but with a sherbet characteristic and that unique difference that only comes with Indigenous foods. The whole fruit may be used in cooking, if you are lucky enough to have some available. Because of it's miniature size the skin and pips are not obtrusive, so no special preparation is required. You can use whole but we most often chop them finely or make a puree.

Wild Lime has an intense flavour. To give you some idea of it's strength, use a ratio of 10 whole (zest, flesh and juice) wild limes to one West Indian or Tahitian Lime. That may not sound that impressive but these feisty little limes only weigh about one gram each. We have carefully freeze-dried our Wild Limes and made them into a convenient powder for use, as it is very difficult to find fresh or frozen Wild Limes in any market or supermarket, perhaps with a few, limited exceptions. For most of us the freeze-dried Wild Lime Superfruit Powder is a blessing as it can be used so easily is easily stored and is very intense in flavour as it is a concentrated version of the fresh fruit.

We use Wild Limes wherever you would usually use Limes - with seafood, on salads, in drinks, smoothies, and in desserts. We've made a compound butter with our Wild Lime Superfruit Powder combined with fresh basil and unsalted butter - so delicious to use with poultry and seafood. We've made salad dressing to go with a quail egg and prosciutto salad and we've baked buttery friands with Wild Lime Superfruit Powder. It is lovely in a crème Brule too!

Health Benefits

Desert limes show an outstanding amount of Vitamin C: 1% DW- 962 mg/100g DW. Vitamin E content measured 3.999 mg/100g DW) with 88.6% contributed to α –Tocopherol, a powerful lipophilic antioxidant. Lutein measured 1.50 mg/100g DW, which is more than the Australian “Hass” Avocado regarded as one of the primary sources of lutein.

Desert limes are a rich source of Calcium 384.2 mg/ 100 g DW, which is almost ten times the Calcium content of Blueberries. A high potassium: sodium (K:Na) ratio, which may be beneficial to reduce hypertension was also discovered. Of twelve commercially grown and tested native food plants, Desert lime showed the highest source of folate (420µg/100g DW), which is double the recommended daily intake in 100g DW and over 10 times greater than Blueberries.

Source: Zhao, J. and Agboola. S., (2007) Functional Properties of Australian Bushfoods, RIRDC Pub. No. 07/030. Konczak, I., Zabaras, D., Dunstan, M., Aguas, P., Roulfe, R., Pavan, A., (2009) Health Benefits of Australian Native Foods, RIRDC Pub. No. 09/133. Research: McDonald, J.K., Caffin, N. A., Sommano, S., Cocksedge, R., (2006) The effect of post harvest handling on selected native food plants, RIRDC Pub. No. 06/021.Zhao, J. and Agboola. S., (2007) Functional Properties of Australian Bushfoods, RIRDC Pub. No. 07/030.Konczak, I., Zabaras, D., Dunstan, M., Aguas, P., Roulfe, R., Pavan, A., (2009) Health Benefits of Australian Native Foods, RIRDC Pub. No. 09/133.

Desert lime is rich in methoxy flavone ghycosides . Glycosides( which is a flavonoid with high active anti-oxidants)  is a skin healer and is used as a natural repairer of the skin. It helps in absorption of vital ingredients needed for good skin and also helps in hydrating the skin keeping it supple and soft.
Desert lime is known to be a significant provider of antioxidant and it also enables a healthy immune system. Aiding the body to resist against various diseases. The main component of the collective tissue collagen's production is also supported by the consumption of this fruit. Another beauty benefit gained from this fruit is that being rich in furanocoumarin, this fruit consist of properties that are anti ageing, skin repairing agent also it heals wounds and aids early skin regeneration.
Desert lime is also very rich in coumarin that helps in acting as a anti fungicidal, has anti-inflammatory benefits and also acts as an anti-oxidant. They are also added in sunscreens as they help in blocking out short wave UV rays that are harmful to the skin.

Typical Nutritional analysis Per 100g Wild Lime fresh fruit
Calories 80 Sodium 100 mg
Total Fat 0 g Potassium 0 mg
Saturated 0 g Total Carbs 19 g
Polyunsaturated 0 g Dietary Fiber 0 g
Monounsaturated 0 g Sugars 19 g
Trans 0 g Protein 2 g
Cholesterol 0 mg    
Vitamin A 0% Calcium 0%
Vitamin C 0% Iron 0%

Typical Analysis 100g dried Wild Lime powder

(per 100gm dry weight)  
Energy 380kj
H2O 77.4g
Protein 1.4mg
Fat 0.4g
Carbohydrates 20.1g
Total Sugar 3.6g
Fibre -
Calcium 384mg
Cu .64mg
Fe 4.74mg
Mg 94.5mg
P 127.8mg
K 1287mg
Na 2.24mg
Zn 1.03mg
Mn 0.87mg
Mo 7.7mg
K:Na -
Folate -
Vit E -

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