June Food for Thought: Limes or Lemons? Ask Your Pocketbook

Lemon prices are rising along with gas prices. Here's an easy guide to switch over to the more reasonably priced lime. Move over lemons - limes are getting a second look. Cooks all over are finding more interesting ways to use limes, especially now that lemon prices have gone up. The other day at the supermarket I saw lemons priced at two for a dollar, another store had lemons listed at 60 cents apiece, while limes were listed at three for a dollar. The large Tahitian limes are what we're used to seeing in the supermarket. The two most popular varieties are the Tahitian Bearss lime grown in California since the 1850s and the Tahitian Persian lime grown in Florida since 1883. The small key limes, sometimes called the Mexican or West Indian limes and sometimes referred to as bartenders limes, usually come from Mexico or Central America but are also grown in Texas and California. The top lime producing countries are the United States, Mexico, Italy, Spain and India. The peak season is May to August but Tahitian limes are available year round. Lime juice can be substituted for lemon juice in most recipes and adds an interesting twist. I like to use lime juice mixed with powdered sugar to make a flat icing (no fat) which is used to glaze the tops of scones or turnovers or drizzled over coffee cakes and cookies. I'll bet you'll start to see limes used to garnish water glasses instead of lemons soon and cocktails made with limes like mojitos and margaritas (and don't forget the gimlet) are as popular as ever. The best-known American lime creation is the key lime pie, which is sweetened with condensed milk and poured into a graham cracker crust. The key lime pie dates as far back as the 1850s. Unlike lemons, limes are also harvested before they ripen as limes will turn yellow and become sweeter and sweeter if left on the tree to mature. Also, limes are not artificially colored as lemons sometimes are. Choose limes that feel heavy for their size, have a glossy skin and are a bright green color. Occasionally limes have small brown spots called "scald" but are fine to eat. Scald is usually caused by refrigeration. Next time you reach for a lemon, save a little and use a lime instead. A medium lime will yield about 2 tablespoons of juice and about 2 teaspoons of grated peel. Steve James Managing Partner Certified Master Baker Popovers on the Square Portsmouth, NH I can be reached @ bkr155@comcast.net
Lime Glaze A basic confectioner's glaze consists of a liquid using milk, fruit juice, water, etc. and sweetened with powdered sugar. The secret is adding a touch of cream cheese. Cream cheese cuts the sweetness and adds such a great creamy texture that most flat icings don't have. This glaze works well used as a glaze for angel food cakes or pound cakes, give it a try -- very tasty on cinnamon rolls too! 6 tablespoons powdered sugar 3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice 1 tablespoon of cream cheese Mix lime juice and cream cheese till smooth and then add the powdered sugar, mixing well. When not in use, keep covered with saran wrap.
What's fueling food price increases? I've seen price increases in blueberries over the years and strawberries are always expensive in the spring and nuts like pecans have been high for quite some time. But these new increases in food prices are for staples like flour, tomatoes, lettuce, lemons, eggs, and that's what's different this time around. The middleman is simply passing his fuel costs on to the retailer. That's not good for independent restaurateurs and bakery owners who produce products made from scratch. Some independents could really get hurt over these price increases. Most of these privately owned establishments don't carry large inventories and can be subject to the daily price increases passed along. Increasing menu prices is the last thing you want to do but consumers see the same price increases in the grocery stores when they shop. It's no secret - we're all in this together. The fast food industry seems to be doing well, some of the national chains are reporting close to double digit increases in business. The year is not over and there's no sign that food or gas prices are coming down anytime soon. I am nervous but at the same time I'm very optimistic as diners are looking for value in the dollars they spend, and that's not a bad thing. - Steve James
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