How to preserve limes

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question, “how to preserve limes” and discuss the different methods of preserving limes.

How to preserve limes

India, China, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil are the world’s principal lime producing countries, and were together responsible for 60% of global production in 2009–2013 (1).

Limes can be preserved by :

  • Refrigerating
  • Freezing
  • Pickling

Limes will last about a week at room temperature. After about a week, the limes will start to wrinkle up and lose flavor (2). To prolong the freshness of limes, they can be refrigerated or frozen. To preserve limes for long term storage, they can be made into pickles.

How to preserve limes by refrigerating

Limes can be preserved by placing them in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. The crisper drawer has a different level of humidity and it prolongs the freshness of limes. 

Postharvest handling and injuries can further influence their respiration rates and storage quality. Proper packaging, on the other hand, can help to reduce these losses because it can reduce not only the respiration rate but also produce transpiration, helping to restrict weight loss. Refrigerated storage retards ripening and enhances shelf life, but chilling injuries may pose problems during extended storage (2).

Limes must always be kept in an airtight container or a ziplock bag. This will reduce the loss of moisture from the limes and prevent shriveling up.

Always try to store whole limes in the refrigerator. Once limes are cut, the greater surface area exposed will result in more moisture loss and the limes will dry up.

To preserve limes by refrigerating :

  • Wash the limes in running water. Washing will clean up dust and dirt that may cause spoilage.
  • Dry the washed limes by wiping with a clean cloth or by allowing them to air dry.
  • Place the limes in an airtight container or z ziplock bag and refrigerate them.

How to preserve limes by freezing

Raw fruits and vegetables contain large quantities of water in proportion to their weight and, consequently, the water phase change occurring in freezing makes these products more susceptible to ice crystal formation and thawing than other types of food. Due to their cellular structural characteristics, fruits are less resistant to the freezing process than vegetables and the negative impact of freezing on fruit quality may be huge (4). After thawing a lime, it must be cooked to produce marmalade or added to a dish.

Freezing limes will retain freshness longer than refrigeration. It is better to freeze the limes individually and then separate them into ziplock bags for long term storage.

To preserve lime by freezing

  • Wash the limes in running water.
  • Dry the washed limes by wiping with a clean cloth or by allowing them to air dry.
  • Freeze the limes individually by keeping them in a large container or a tray in the freezer.
  • After the limes are frozen, pack them into ziplock bags and return to the freezer.

How to preserve limes by pickling

Limes can be preserved by pickling in salt. Pickling of lime has been done since before refrigerators were made. There are numerous pickling recipes for lime. Some recipes require the pickles to be refrigerated while others enable storage at room temperature (5).

Pickling limes allows long term preservation but changes the flavor profile and nutrient content. For example, lime pickles have a very high content of sodium from the added salt and must not be consumed in large quantities.

Limes can be pickled fresh or after sun-drying. Sun-dried limes pickled in a simple solution of salt and chillies is used commonly in Asian culture. This preservation method enables limes to be preserved for about 3 months 235 years (5). If processed well, the product can be kept for several months. Moreover, no refrigeration is needed at any point in the process.

To make sun-dried lime pickles :

  • Wash and clean the limes.
  • Cut each lime into quarters.
  • Cover the lime quarters with salt and place inside a clean glass jar. It is recommended to sterilize the jar in boiling water for long term storage.
  • Place the uncovered bottle in direct sunlight during the daytime. At night close and bottle and keep it inside.
  • Repeat this process for about 10 days.
  • After this time, lime juice and spices of choice are added to the sun-dried limes.
  • Then the sun drying process is repeated.

The total preparation time for sun-dried lime pickles is about 15 days. But the longer the pickles are kept, the better they taste. The best flavor of pickles can be obtained after several weeks of storage.

A detailed method of pickling sun-dried limes can be found here.

Shelf-life of preserved limes

The shelf-life of preserved limes depends on the preservation method used.

Room temperature: 1 week (5)

Refrigeration: Whole limes last in the refrigerator for about a month when stored properly (5).

Freezing: Freezing preserves limes for about 6 months. 

Pickling: Shelf-life depends on the recipe used. Sun-dried lime pickles can last for a maximum of 3 months5 years under the proper storage conditions.

More tips on lime preservation can be found here.

How to identify fresh limes for preservation

It is important to purchase fresh limes for preservation. Unripe to mid ripe limes will preserve better than ripe limes, thus the production of ethylene is limited and the ripeness process slower (5).

Color: Limes must be of light to dark green. Usually, limes of lighter color are riper than darker ones. During the ripening process, the color changes from olive green to yellow, the rind thickness decreases (5).

Appearance: Fresh limes are even in color with no brown spots and discolouration. Fresh lime should be free from moldy patches on the skin. Signs of mold are visible after a week of storage in room temperature (2).

Texture: Fresh limes are firm and not sticky or mushy. They are firm and the rind is rough. During storage and ripening, the fruits lose firmness (2).

Smell: Fresh limes will have a citrusy smell while spoiled limes will have a sour or pungent smell.

Other FAQs about Lime that you may be interested in.

Can you eat lime leaves?

What can I substitute for kaffir lime leaves?

Can dogs eat lime?

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we answered the question, “how to preserve limes” and discussed the different methods of preserving limes. We also discussed how to choose fresh limes for preservation and looked at the shelf-life obtained from each preservation method.

If you have any comments, please let us know.

References

  1. Donkersley, P., Silva, F.W.S., Carvalho, C.M. et al. Biological, environmental and socioeconomic threats to citrus lime production. J Plant Dis Prot, 2018, 125, 339–356. 
  2. Maftoonazad N, Ramaswamy HS. Application and Evaluation of a Pectin-Based Edible Coating Process for Quality Change Kinetics and Shelf-Life Extension of Lime Fruit (Citrus aurantifolium). Coatings, 201, 9, 285.
  3. Simonne, Amy, and Mark Ritenour. Citrus: Safe Handling Practices for Consumers: FCS8739/FY483, 11/2002. EDIS 2002, 9. 
  4. Evans, Judith A., ed. Frozen food science and technology. John Wiley & Sons, 2009  
  5. Champa, H. Lime: A Technical Guide for Production, Processing and Value Addition. 2022. National Institute of Postharvest Management.