Every time I return to Jaltemba Bay, the first thing I like to indulge in is… an ice-cold limonada. This thirst quenching bebida (beverage) is simply made; lots of ice, a spoonful of sugar, your choice of mineral or natural water, and the juice of several freshly squeezed limes. Aaah… to me, this is the flavour that is Mexico. No, not chili or cilantro, nor even a molé sauce, it’s the tart tang of lime.
The limones (limes) that I see for sale in the Jaltemba Bay area are available all year round and generally come in two sizes. The smaller one is called a Mexican or Key lime and it has a thin skin and seeds. It tends to be the most popular among the locals. The larger one is probably a Persian lime. It has a thicker skin and doesn’t have seeds. I prefer the larger ones myself. A Mexican friend told me to buy the ones with more yellow in their skin as at this stage of ripeness they tend to be juicier… and it’s all about the juice!
Several beverages that are practically a tradition to make during Happy Hour (before dinner drinks) include rimming a glass with lime juice – then dipping it into salt if you are imbibing in a Margarita, or into a savory spice mix for a Bloody Caesar. And then there’s the always popular Tequila Shooter followed by a quick lick of salt and a bite into a lime wedge. I would be remiss here if I didn’t also mention the Cuba Libra, made with rum and coke and a wedge of lime perched on the side of the glass. Yes I know, there are many more, but then I would require a better explanation as to how I know about all these drinks other than I worked in our family owned restaurant bar when I was in college.
Juicy is good. I use it for adding zing to fresh salsas and salads. I also squeeze it onto tacos of all sorts, onto rice and fish (any seafood really), and even into chicken soup. And while I am sure there are more dishes that benefit from the flavour of lime, it’s the after dinner treat, a dessert called Key Lime Pie, that is a big favourite of mine.
I have also discovered that you can cook with lime leaves. For instance, add the leaves (free of any sprays or bugs) when preparing rice to give it a luscious scent and just a hint of flavour. Throw them in whole during the cooking process and then pick them out before serving the rice, as you would a bay leaf. I would think a roast chicken would also benefit from a couple of leaves in the stuffing, although I haven’t tried that one yet. One should take care when picking the leaves and fruit though, because many varieties of this tree have a very good natural defense – thorns!
Our casa near El Tonino has a large yard, and one of the first things we planted was a lime tree that we purchased from a local vivero (nursery). It is of the Persian variety and it has already given us fruit.
I have observed some very interesting things in this tree, the most memorable so far is a caterpillar sporting a disgusting disguise; this crawler looked exactly like a large bird dropping (I’m not kidding, think Canada goose!). There was also a green lizard draped along one of the larger branches, and its colouring made it practically invisible amongst the fluttering leaves. On a daily basis I see spiders and wasps that make their homes in this tree… they use the sharp thorns to add more sting to their own arsenals. Birds of several different varieties including blue-grey gnatcatchers, sparrows and painted buntings enjoy feasting on some of the other smaller bugs that think its safe for them to linger in the shady refuge the leaves provide. In my yard, the luscious tasting lime is not just a desirable citrus fruit with its many uses, it’s a national geographic show!
After we planted the domestic lime tree in our backyard, we discovered that we had a wild lime tree in our front yard. And while hiking around the hillsides and pastures surrounding our casa, we have noticed several more beautiful, mature naturalized (wild) specimens that are approximately 20 to 25 feet tall. Because the wild trees tend to have fruit for most of the season I am at the casa, I can take the dogs for a good run, get some exercise myself, and have the added bonus of picking my own fruit whenever I get the urge for a freshly squeezed, ice-cold and totally refreshing limonada. Darn it. Now I want one!
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