If you’ve had sticker shock at the supermarket check-out, limes in hand, you’re not alone. At most major food stores, a single lime is a dollar or more. Last year, a box of 200 limes could be purchased from distributors for about $15. This year, the same box is priced at anywhere from $80 to $130.
Why has the citrus fruit risen so sharply?
A canker disease spread through Florida groves, where there was also storm flooding, but that doesn’t explain why the number one exporter of limes to the United States — Mexico — has demanded so much cash. Officials say Mexican drug cartels have successfully interrupted the supply chain, and have reportedly taken over some lime distributing businesses.
But that’s not the end of the bad news. According to The Dallas Morning News, the Mexican drug cartels are trying to interrupt the supply of avocados to the U.S. It’s bitter news for guacamole-lovers, me included.
How to Get Around the High Cost of Limes
You know the old saying… if someone gives you lemons, make lemonade. Ergo, if the Mexican drug cartels are high-jacking limes, turn to another country’s spectacular limes—Iran. Middle Eastern cuisine features many breathtaking recipes, among them ones that call for using dried limes—and powder made from dried limes—to add a remarkable depth to dishes. Dried limes are used to flavor soups, stews, rice, and dried lime powder is delicious sprinkled on a variety of meats, poultry and fish before baking or grilling. Years ago, one of my favorite food writers and cooks, John Willoughby, singled out dried limes as a “power ingredient,” in a New York Times article, explaining how easy they are to use in recipes. (A former editor at Gourmet magazine, John is now at Cooks Illustrated.) Visit a local Middle Eastern market to find dried limes, which can be used whole in recipes, or you can grind the skin in a coffee grinder until it becomes a fine powder. They’re ugly looking, but don’t be put off. If there isn’t a Middle Eastern food store near you, go online to find many sources for dried limes and dry lime powder. Kalustyan’s in New York City is a spectacular place to visit, or check out their online store. And so you see? That old saying about lemons and lemonade is both clichéd and true, as clichés usually are. If someone hands you a case of supermarket limes that cost as much as cashmere, make something with dried lime powder. You might discover that its floral notes are even better than the usual fare. — Faith Middleton