Bad Times for Limes

Sweet Fancy Orange Scab Moses

The Lime Index

The lime situation is off to a terrible start in 2011, with Bethesda Giant offering four limes for $3. Ripoff! Especially at mediocre quality. Wheaton H Mart has been stuck at 3 for $1 for months now, not a terrible price but again quality has suffered lately. Wheaton Giant and Kensington Safeway were both 3 for $2 last I checked.

We felt a bit better this past week when we found St. Petersburg (Florida) Publix limes were also 3 for $2, and the quality was no better down there.

What’s the problem?  Partly it’s just that prime Persian lime season is late spring through fall, so trying to get great limes in winter is like trying to downhill ski in Virginia in August, or to get great Tex-Mex in DC anytime. This Fresh Plaza article suggests Mexican production has been cut due to falling wholesale prices (about half of all limes consumed in the U.S. come from Mexico). But perhaps more significant, heavy rainfall in Mexico, especially Veracruz (aka Persian Lime Central), ruined much of the Q4 2010 crop, or at least caused it to fail to meet export-quality standards. Plus, according to this USDA report:

in December 2010, new U.S. import requirements put in place to prevent the entry of Sweet Orange Scab (i.e., Elsinoë australis) are stopping Mexican limes from reaching the U.S. market.

Not helping! Apparently those requirements were modified later that same month, just in time for Santa to put wizened, substandard, chemically-treated Mexican limes in our stockings. Disaster averted. Sweet orange scab. Sweet fancy Moses!  All I want are high quality, affordable limes — is that so wrong?! Maybe by April-May things will improve, just in time for margarita season.

On the bright side, we have a fab new lime index logo — thanks P!!

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