If Most Oranges Are Too Acidic, The Lima Variety Is For You

Oranges are a refreshing and delicious fruit. From cold slices in a mixed citrus salad to homemade orange juice or curd, there are so many wonderful ways to enjoy the fruit that inspired the name for a color. But as you likely know, there are quite a few varieties to choose from. While you undoubtedly have heard of navel oranges, mandarin oranges, and maybe even Cara Cara oranges, you might not be as familiar with lima oranges.

Lima oranges — Citrus sinensis L. Osbeck, scientifically speaking — are a citrus fruit that is lesser known than their more common cousins. However, these oranges offer a unique and delicious flavor that sets them apart. While most oranges are sweet, they can also be quite acidic. And that's exactly why lima oranges are the perfect option for people looking to minimize the number of acidic foods they eat. So, let's dive into everything you should know about this sweet variety of oranges.

What are lima oranges?

Lima oranges — also known as acidless oranges or sweet oranges — are a citrus fruit that is native to China. Today, these oranges can be found growing in many other locations including Brazil, Egypt, Mexico, and Spain. Unlike other oranges, lima oranges aren't acidic at all, which gives them a unique taste that is sweeter and milder than other varieties of oranges.

Slightly smaller than other oranges and with a slightly flattened shape, lima oranges have smooth, thin skin that is easy to peel. When cut open, lima oranges have a bright yellow-orange flesh that is juicy and sweet. 

What do lima oranges taste like?

Unlike other oranges, lima oranges have a taste that is very sweet. Lima oranges seem to taste so much sweeter than other oranges because they lack a sharp sourness that balances out the sweetness. But a tangy flavor is not the only quality this variety of oranges is missing.

The lack of acidity in lima oranges makes them ideal for people who have sensitive stomachs or acid reflux because they are less likely to cause digestive issues. Additionally, the sweeter, milder taste of lima oranges makes them ideal for use in a variety of recipes — especially cakes and other sweet treats.

Where do lima oranges come from?

Lima oranges are primarily grown today in Mexico and other parts of Latin America, such as Colombia and Brazil — the latter of which grows most of the world's oranges. However, they are also grown in smaller quantities in the United States, particularly in California and Florida. These oranges thrive in warm, humid climates and require consistent rainfall for optimal growth.

The trees that bear lima oranges are relatively small, reaching a height of nearly 33 feet when fully grown. These trees typically take around three to six years before they start to produce fruit, but once they do, they continue to do so for several decades. Lima orange trees are evergreen and have glossy, dark green leaves that provide a contrasting backdrop for the bright, juicy fruits. They also produce fragrant white flowers that bloom in the spring.

Lima oranges are typically harvested by hand, which ensures that only the ripest fruits are picked. The oranges are picked when they are fully mature and have developed a bright, uniform color. Once harvested, the oranges are sorted and packed for shipping.

How to use lima oranges

Lima oranges can be used in a variety of ways in the kitchen, from sweet to savory. They can be sliced and eaten as a healthy snack. Another popular way to use lima oranges is in salads. Simply toss some fresh greens with sliced lima oranges, toasted nuts, and a simple vinaigrette for a light and refreshing salad.

Another way to enjoy lima oranges is in marinades and sauces for meat and seafood dishes. Combine the juice of a few lima oranges with garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and a touch of honey for a flavorful marinade that will add depth and sweetness to your favorite proteins. The oranges can also be used to make jams, curd, and marmalades.

Lima oranges can also be juiced and used in cocktails and other beverages. If you prefer, the juice can be enjoyed as a sweet treat. Try making a lima orange sorbet or granita by blending the juice of the oranges with sugar and freezing the mixture. Or, use lima oranges to make a zesty citrus tart or cake by adding lime orange zest and juice to your favorite recipe.

It is, however, well worth noting that the lack of acid in lima oranges causes them to spoil faster, since they lack the natural preservative.

Nutrition of lima oranges

Like other citrus fruits, lima oranges are packed with vitamins and nutrients. They are a great source of vitamin C, which is, of course, important for immune function. They also contain good amounts of vitamin A, potassium, folate, and fiber thanks to their pulp. Lima oranges also contain more than 12% of your suggested daily fiber intake.

Overall, lima oranges are a healthy fruit. It is worth noting, however, that the macronutrients of these oranges reflects their natural source of sugar. Per one lima orange, there are roughly 70 calories including 18 grams of carbohydrates. That count is influenced by the 12 grams of sugar each orange contains. Finally, you might be surprised to learn that a single lima orange does actually contain protein (but just 1 gram).

Where to buy lima oranges

Lima oranges can be difficult to find in some parts of the world, but they can often be found online or in specialty food stores. In the U.S., they are available in some supermarkets, particularly in California and Florida. It is also possible to find fresh lima oranges at farmers' markets during their peak season (winter to early spring).

While lima oranges may not be as readily available as the most popular oranges, they are worth seeking out for their distinct flavor and versatility in the kitchen. Why not try something new and add some lima oranges to your next recipe?