The History of the Lime

Sliced lime wedge beside whole lime white background

As a soft drink producer, it is incumbent upon us to have comprehensive knowledge of the various ingredients that go into our CBD beverages. That includes the various flavoring agents we use when formulating our CBD drinks, like our Sparkling CBD soda. One ingredient that appears in several of our formulations is lime.

Just about everyone has heard of lime and has some experience with it. But we thought it was time to shine a light on the lime. So in this post, we're going to look at the history of this humble citrus fruit and how it came to be such an essential part of the human gastronomic experience.

What is a Lime?

Lime is a citrus fruit, usually green, that measures a couple of inches in diameter. It resembles a lemon in shape but is usually smaller. There are several species of lime including but not limited to key lime, Persian lime, desert lime and makrut lime. Key lime and Persian lime are virtually identical in appearance, while desert lime and makrut lime have a rougher, wilder look to them. All limes are sour and, although limes originated in South Asia, they are now grown year round in various countries. China is by far the biggest producer of limes with the US a distant second.

The Origins of the Lime

Sri Lankan folklore claims that the lime was the result of a fight between a pair of cobra deities. The story goes that as they fought an acidic juice was released from their fangs which landed on the ground and spawned the first lime trees. Scientific studies on the other hand place the origins of the lime as being somewhere in Malaysia and indicate that limes are the result of cross breeding between wild citrons and a species of papeda, a citrus species that still grows wild in parts of tropical Asia today.

Into the New World

From South Asia limes spread to India, the Middle East, Africa and Europe where they were introduced by Roman traders around 300 BC. During the 1500s the Spanish introduced the lime tree to their colonies in the West Indies and later to Central and South America and ultimately, North America (more on that in a minute).

In the 19th century, the British Navy began distributing limes to sailors to prevent scurvy. Limes were preferred over lemons because the almost total lack of sugar in lime juice made it less susceptible to fermentation than the more sugar-heavy lemon juice. (The practice of using this particular citrus fruit to treat scurvy had the unforeseen effect of saddling our British friends with the derogatory term "Limeys".) The British sourced their limes from trees they cultivated in their West Indian colonies of Barbados and Antigua. And while the colonizers are long gone from those islands the lime trees remain and have become an integral part of the local identity.

Limes in the US

As we mentioned above it wasn’t a straight line from where limes were first cultivated in South Asia to their inclusion in our Sparkling CBD water flavors. The lime took the long way around via India, the Middle East, ancient Rome, medieval Spain and the Spanish Colonies of the West Indies before finally reaching south Florida in the early 19th century. The first commercial production of limes in Florida began in the 1880s and really took off after the unnamed hurricane of 1906 destroyed much of the state’s pineapple industry.

By 1960 lime production in Florida was booming and that upward trend continued straight through to the early 1990s when a pair of disasters uprooted the US lime industry. The first was hurricane Andrew. That monster storm swept through southern Florida in 1992 and wiped out virtually all the lime groves in southern Florida, ground zero for lime production in the US. Just as the industry was getting back on its feet a citrus canker was discovered on a lime in a big commercial grove and the state government ordered the destruction of most lime trees in an effort to prevent the disease from spreading to Florida’s all-important orange groves.

Production never really recovered after that and today the US lime industry is a shell of its former self. And though per capita lime consumption in the US increased six-fold in the past 40 years many of our limes now come from Mexico.

About the Lime Juice Cordial

A lime cordial is a mixture of concentrated lime juice and sugar syrup. Lime cordial was first produced in the late 19th century in the West Indies by crushing limes between rollers, catching the runoff, allowing the raw juice to settle for two weeks, extracting the pure juice and then sweetening it with sugar and preserving it using sulfur dioxide. Lime cordial has enjoyed continuous popularity for more than 150 years. These days it is:

  • Used to make the Gimlet, Lime Rickey, Blue Heaven and other popular cocktails.
  • Added to Sparkling CBD Citrus Water to create a refreshing summertime thirst-quencher.
  • Added to vodka to make it more palatable.

Lime: A Sparkling CBD Beverage Staple

As a growing independent soft drink manufacturer we understand the importance of quality ingredients and go to great lengths to ensure the lime we use in our CBD soda is sourced from the most reputable growers. Because without limes and other high-quality ingredients, our Sparkling CBD Drinks just wouldn’t be quite as special as they are. Make sure to order plenty of our Sparkling CBD Soda for your next get-together.