If you’ve ever been to Key West, you’ve probably seen key lime trees growing everywhere. And if you’ve ever had a key lime pie, you know that the fruit from these trees has a unique flavor. But did you know that key limes are actually a hybrid of two different types of citrus fruits?
Hybrid fruits, as the name suggests, are fruits that are created by crossbreeding and cultivating one fruit from two ‘parent’ fruits. While most citrus lime fruit varieties have been used in various parts of the world and are well-known, many still do not know if limes and especially key limes are hybrids.
In this article, we take a look at some of these concerns and understand how natural key limes are, if any or have come to be.
Are Key Limes Hybrid?
The key lime, Citrus aurantifolia (or Mexican lime) is a hybrid of the Citrus hystrix and the Citrus medica (or Persian lime). Although key limes are naturally occurring hybrids, it is seeded, very natural, and alkaline.
The hybrid was first grown in the West Indies, and it gets its name from the fact that it is often found in the Florida Keys. Key limes are smaller and more acidic than Persian limes, and they have a thin, wrinkled skin.
So, yes, key limes are hybrid fruits but they are naturally created and not man-made.
Are key limes lemons?
Lemons and key limes are a part of the same family of hybrid citrus fruits. But key limes are not lemons; they are two different hybrid fruits that are completely different in size, taste, pH levels and a host of other factors.
To help you understand the difference between these two hybrid citrus fruits, we have created this table detailing five (5) of the major differences between key limes and lemons.
|Properties of Fruit||Key Limes||Lemons|
|Size & Appearance||Smaller in diameter, spherical, bright green outer colour that ripens to a yellow-green hue at peak maturity.||Larger in diameter, about 5x the size of key limes, yellow outer colour.|
|Taste and Flavor||Tart and tangy-sweet, very aromatic and potent juice, more tropical and floral in flavour||Sour and acidic, sometimes even bitter, harsh citrusy flavour|
|Accessibility||Unavailable in most supermarkets, requires shopping at Whole Food market or supermarket||Easier to get, as it is more widely cultivated and exported in many countries|
|Native to||Mexico, Central & South America and West Indies||Asia, specifically North-West India, Malaysia and some parts of China.|
Are Limes Genetically-Modified?
Genetically modified foods or organisms (GMOs), are significantly different from hybrid foods. GMOs are foods that have been genetically altered to become more resistant to disease, and change the taste or simply remove the unfavourable characteristics of the fruit.
Limes are hybrid fruits, but they are not genetically modified in any way. They are natural hybrid fruits that contain the best characteristics from each fruit they were combined with, but the genetic makeup of limes has not been altered or touched in any way.
There are many concerns surrounding Genetically Modified foods, specifically as it concerns produce. One of the major concerns is that scientists can significantly change the way a fruit or vegetable affects your body, without the brand informing or the consumer understanding that this product has been altered.
While biotechnology allows for maximum benefits to be received from these Genetically Modified foods, there have also been numerous instances where a genetically modified version of food has caused allergic reactions in those who usually consume them.
Still, limes are very far from being a member of the GMO community, at least not those we see in the supermarket right! But if you’re looking for the most natural citrus fruits that nature has created, there are quite a few citrus fruits you need to take a look at.
Related: Are Key Limes Alkaline?
What Citrus Fruits are not Hybrids?
While most citrus fruits are hybrid, there are a few that have stood the test of time and remain completely natural in a sea of their crossbreed counterparts.
Here is a list of some citrus fruits that are natural, and have maintained their state despite constant technological ecological advancements.
- Kumquat (Citrus japonica) – Similar in colour and shape to the orange, kumquats are naturally occurring citrus fruits that are native to Southern China. Unlike most citrus fruits with rinds that are bitter and tart, kumquats are completely edible throughout; with the insides providing a sour and tangy juice, while the rind is sweet and tasty. These small but highly beneficial fruits boast several health benefits including aiding digestion, improving weight loss and boosting your metabolism. Kumquats are also packed with Vitamin A and other minerals, to support eye health and improve your vision.
- Mandarin Orange (Citrus reticulata) – Another citrus fruit that is not a hybrid or man-made type are mandarin oranges, which are less preferred when compared to the rounder and larger oranges that we see in supermarkets today. Mandarins are much sweeter than other citrus fruits and have an oblong shape in comparison to the round shape of most hybrid citrus fruits.
There are many varieties of mandarins, and hybrids that have been formed using them, but pure mandarin is the only variety that is authentically 100% natural. Mandarins are also healthy for the body, as they have essential VItamins and minerals including Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin C, potassium and magnesium, which help the body to perform its functions well.
- Citron (Citrus medica) – Last on our list of naturally occurring citrus fruits is citron; a large, bumpy but fragrant citrus fruit with a unique, oblong shape. Citron is one of the original citrus fruits that a majority of hybrid citrus fruits are developed from and is not very juicy or sweet.
The origins of the Citron fruit are too far to be traced back, but they are cultivated and harvested in Northeast India and have eventually spread to the subtropical and tropical regions. Citron is anti-inflammatory and helps to fight against infections in the body. It also has flavonoids and anti-cancer properties that help to prevent the formation of cancer cells.
Lastly, citron is a powerful fruit that is proven to lower blood pressure and reduce your risk for heart disease, atherosclerosis and strokes.
Key limes are hybrid fruits that are beneficial to helping your body to maintain that state of alkalinity that it needs to perform optimally. Though they are hybrid or man-made fruits, they are still completely healthy and safe to use.
Genetically Modified foods can be cause for concern, as they can cause allergic reactions, and other health issues when the original genetic makeup of a product is disturbed or changed.
Ultimately, most citrus fruits are hybrid, which limits your ability to get those more naturally occurring citrus fruits such as citron, mandarins and kumquats. Still, it is our responsibility to decide what the best thing would be for our body, and act accordingly.
We hope this article was beneficial in helping you to understand hybrid citrus fruits and the benefits that can still be obtained from them.
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