PERHAPS YOU’LL recall that I swore off buying any more plants this year. The garden is beyond overgrown.
That said, I am now the proud owner of a Mexican lime, also known as a Key lime, bartender’s lime, West Indian lime and citrus aurantifolia for those who like to toss Latin about.
How did this happen?
As always assessing no blame, the acquisition was not my fault. It was The Prince’s idea to hit the fancy little local garden shop, which had just announced a big sale. And I was standing there holding these tall, skinny green metal garden stakes with the loop at the top which are really terrific for holding up the heavy limbs of hydrangea and such, and even at the exorbitant prices normally charged at this garden boutique, they were dirt cheap. Like 35 cents each cheap. What can you buy for 35 cents anymore, I ask you.
And he says, “You can have anything you want. It’s my treat.”
I contemplated that for a very brief bit, suspecting he was guilty of something that I would find out about soon enough, so best let him off the hook in advance. No?
So I ended up with this bushy little lime that I didn’t need, though I will confess to wanting. My last one went belly-up, and the lemon and kiwi and orange plants missed it. Dreadfully. What’s a collection of citrus without a lime?
However. Per the tag, which I have not yet lost: “This variety is exceedingly vigorous growing from 6 to 13 feet tall and 6 to 8 feet wide.”
In another location, this would be just a reasonably sized bush, but what we have here is a very small city garden that is already crammed full of invasive this and that and up and down and sideways. I had even read that tag in advance, sort of, at any rate the part that said it was a lime.
Thankfully, the Mexican lime is a smaller tree than the Persian lime, the fruit most commonly seen at the grocery, which can grow to 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Still, when this sucker has to move inside for the winter, it will prove interesting.
Once home with my new pet, I transferred it to a handsome terracotta pot and shoved a few things aside to find it a dedicated patch of sunlight on the back porch, the only place I have left that gets direct sun for more than five minutes.
I then went off to further my arguably non-existent knowledge.
Sitting at the computer I nimbly typed in the word “lime” and the first entry, from organicfacts.net said: “The health benefits of lime include weight loss, improved digestion, reduced respiratory disorders, enhanced immunity, relief from constipation, as well as prevention from cancer and kidney stones. Lime is also used in the treatment of scurvy, piles, peptic ulcer, gout, and gums. It also aids in skin care, hair care, and eye care.”
All of these I either suffer from, want to suffer from (see weight loss), or expect to experience.
Not only do limes offer health benefits, they are key ingredients in a variety of staffs of life, such as key lime pie, gin and tonics, and margaritas. This I did not have to look up.
Plus! In Jamaica, coconut water with lime juice is said to relieve hangovers, stomach upsets—and high blood pressure. There is a song about this by Harry Nilsson: Don’t listen to it if you’re an addictive personality, you’ll be singing it all day.
But then, a grower’s site adds this somewhat alarming tidbit: “Lime juice may be used to clean lime deposits from the interiors of coffee pots and tea kettles.” Oy. And we drink this stuff?
There are also some, shall we say, hoodoo aspects that I stumbled upon. Numerous sites suggested curatives for the spookier aspects of life (or death) and had the same suspiciously exact and mysterious wording—“there are many superstitious uses of the lime”—with no further elucidation. I found this fascinating, and so devoted several hours to ferreting out information.
There wasn’t much, mostly just those words, but what I did find was useful.
In Malaysia they say that hanging a string of limes and chilies in the entrance to your home will ward off the evil eye.
Mexican abuelas say lime in water (and presumably in margaritas) will absorb bad spirits and negative feelings you’re getting from people like husbands, which should come in handy.
Whether you intend to ward off evil spirits, cure your gout or make cocktails, there’s plenty of excellent information online. As a start, I’d suggest Gardeningknowhow.com, which has an excellent primer on the subject.
But be aware that, besides ample space, limes of any sort need direct sunlight all day to perform at their most prolific—not 10 minutes on the back porch. Sigh.
LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” shares garden stories every Thursday.