By Noris Ledesma, Curator of Tropical Fruit
Despite what I still call them, they're not limes at all. Actually, they're in the same family as lychees. The Spanish lime is native to Colombia, Venezuela, the West Indies and the Bahamas. The Spanish lime thrives in the warmer parts of Florida. Trees are growing at Fort Myers, Palm Beach and other places on the mainland, but it seems to fruit most prolifically at Key West.
Beneath this green skin is a large seed coated in a peach colored flesh, which actually tastes a bit like a lime. They are common to find them in markets, and very often you will see them in the streets. The most common way of eating them is to remove the skin and suck the pulp from the seed. In Colombia the peeled fruit can be soak in rum and sugar to make a drink.
The seeds are edible after roasting and eaten like chestnuts. The pulp is adherent to the stone and is best for eating out-of-hand or in juices. Spanish lime is a good source of iron as well as fiber, calcium, Vitamin A, phosphorus, and niacin. The thin, tight skin covers the juicy pulp. They are also made into jams, jellies, pies, and drinks. The juice is often added to mixed fruit juices.
In Florida it is grown as a fruit tree and shade tree, and is often seen growing along roadsides. The Spanish lime is an attractive. They're erect with a rounded, spreading canopy. Leaves are retained year to year. These trees are well adapted to poor soils, and salty conditions.
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden has been collected in Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Florida has endeavored to make a collection of superior clones. ‘Montgomery’, ‘Ponce’, ‘Sosa’, and ‘Jose Pabon’ are recommended it. These trees are now easily found in local nurseries; make sure you buy a female tree, grafted or air layered.
Spanish lime is not very particular when it comes to soil. It grows in poor, rocky or sandy soils very well. It is a slow growing tree. It is better to plant two trees are needed to insure good fruit production. One tree is functionally male and the other is female. The flowers are pollinated by flying insects including honey bees.
Trees are not freeze tolerant . Cold protection must be provided for young trees by covering the entire tree with a blanket or with the use of a large cardboard box.
Young trees will prefer regular applications of water, but mature trees can do quite nicely with no watering. A granular fertilizer like an 8-3-9 or similar formulation should be applied in march, June and August. The granular fertilizer should be spread lightly below the drip line. A foliar minor element spray and iron drench can be done in June and August to improve the growth of the tree.
Young trees should not be pruned their first year but should be allowed to grow. After 2 years shoud be start prunning to keep the tree 7 feet tall. The tree under good growing conditions, they can be 40 feet in height.
The greatest bloom is usually observed in the spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the spring and continuing until fall depending of the cultivar. Spanish lime fruit should be harvested when fully ripe. Ripe fruit undergo no real color change and remain green in color. Ripeness may be determined by fruit size and flavor.