We take a closer look at the world’s most popular lime, including its uses, history, and place in the global market.
From tiny key limes to tubular Australian finger limes, there are more than 20 varieties of this citrus fruit. Of the many kinds, Tahiti limes reign as the most popular and widely consumed citrus fruits around the world and is in higher demand than other citrus species.
Tahiti limes: A quick overview
Tahiti limes (Citrus latifolia)—also called Persian limes (grown on a Persian lime tree), Bearss limes, and seedless limes—are thought to be a trihybrid intergeneric cross with citron fruit (Citrus medica), pummelo (Citrus grandis), and a micro-citrus species called Micrantha (Citrus micrantha).
Tahiti limes are large, globular, and juicy, averaging 1.5 to 2 inches (4 to 6 centimeters) with a light green or vivid green peel depending on age and quality. These limes have a smooth, firm rind covered in small pores and turn from green to pale yellow when ripe. Underneath the rind, Tahiti limes have soft, pale green flesh that is divided into 8-10 portions by thin, white membranes. The flesh is fragrant and mostly seedless, though it sometimes may have a few pale-white seeds. Tahiti limes are known for their zesty, tart, and faintly sweet flavor.
This tangy citrus fruit is used in a variety of different international cuisines, adding a bright, acidic flavor to dishes, dressings, and marinades. The zest of the rind is often used in desserts like key lime pie, curries, and soups. In addition to cooking, Tahiti limes and lime juice are used in limeade and as a key flavor in cocktails. There is even demand for frozen juice concentrate.
Outside of culinary applications, limes are used in medicines and beauty and skincare products. In particular, lime oil—which is extracted from Tahiti lime peels by cold compression or steam distillation—is an essential oil used in aromatherapy and cosmetics.
Tahiti limes contain high levels of vitamin C—one lime can provide 32 percent of your daily vitamin C requirement. In addition to vitamin C, Tahiti limes offer many other vitamins and minerals, including potassium. Limes also contain a distinctive bouquet of nutrients thought to help fortify the heart, boost the immune system, promote healthy skin, increase iron absorption, and lower the risk of certain cancers.
A brief history of the Tahiti lime
Tahiti lime fruit production, lime trees, and fresh juice are believed to have originated in Southeast Asia and were introduced to the Mediterranean area via Persia. The citrus fruit was brought by Portuguese traders to Brazil, and made its way to the U.S. in the mid- to late-1800s. Tahiti limes were grown commercially in lime trees in Florida until the early 2000s, when lime production was discontinued due to eradication efforts for a bacterial disease known as citrus canker. With the decline of domestic production and Tahiti lime tree availability, the U.S. turned to Mexico and neighboring countries primarily in Central America to source its limes.
Tahiti limes in Mexico
Today, Mexico continues to have a high number of citrus trees and remains the U.S. market’s primary lime supplier, as well as the largest citrus-growing and -consuming country in the world. Tahiti limes are grown mostly in the micro-climates of northern Veracruz, with some production in Tabasco, Oaxaca, Puebla, Jalisco, and Yucatan. In Mexico, the peak harvest of Tahiti limes falls between June and September.
An estimated 50 to 60 percent of Tahiti limes are imported to the U.S. from Veracruz, while around 30 percent of Mexico’s total Tahiti lime production is exported.
Tahiti limes in Colombia
Mexico has reigned as a leading global supplier of Tahiti limes for decades. However, in the last few years—as global lime consumption continues to climb—new suppliers are eager to meet demand.
In addition to South Africa and Vietnam, the South American country of Colombia is fast emerging as a promising global supplier of limes. With its varied climate, precipitous rainfall, and proximity to U.S. and American markets, Colombia is a rising star in the agricultural sector—and nowhere is that more apparent than its lime exports. The fastest-growing lime exporter in the world, Colombia has nearly quadrupled its lime exports in the last six years.
The country enjoys an equatorial tropical climate and diverse climate zones, which allows lime trees and their crops to be harvested year-round. Colombia’s climate creates an ideal balance of rainfall and sunlight which help create fresh fruit and a healthy tree that is disease free. Unlike Mexico, Brazil, and many other competitors, the country has no summer or winter; only dry and wet seasons. In addition, the country benefits from an unparalleled geostrategic location with direct access to both the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Pacific oceans, creating easy access to international markets that use limes.
Tahiti lime production has been expanding across Colombia. The primary regions where the growth has been occurring are the Valle del Cauca, Quindío, Risaralda, Tolima, and Antioquia. Colombia has around 25,000 hectares of farmland producing around 35,495 tons each year. The country is forecasted to increase lime exports by 20 percent per year, according to some estimates.
Valle Verde, Farmfolio’s state-of-the-art packing facility, has exported more than 2,3000 kilograms of Tahiti limes to the U.S. and Europe since its opening in September 2020. Looking to the future, we expect to see a 212 percent increase in Tahiti lime exports in the second part of the year compared to the same period last year, fueled by mounting demand from both the retail and food industries.
Farmfolio gives investors a chance to participate in the incredible growth of Colombia’s Tahiti lime industry and the success of Valle Verde. We acquire and develop some of the country’s top-performing lime farmland, and then we subdivide them into smaller plots known as LOTs (Land Ownership Titles).
LOTs give individuals the chance to own farmland directly and gain exposure to highly profitable Tahiti limes without the cost or hassle of owning a large farm. To learn about Tahiti lime LOTs in Colombia, click here to learn out more about our currently available farms.