The Lime Index
I would be enjoying the fact that the rest of the world is finally catching up with my longstanding lime obsession, if the circumstances weren’t so dire.
We North Americans get most of our limes from Mexico, and a combination of disease, weather, and gangs are putting the squeeze (see what I did there?) on lime imports. Mexican gangs aren’t going away anytime soon, and the disease, Huanglongbing, which sounds like a dish I would like to order at Joe’s Noodle House but is in fact responsible for killing a whole lot of limes, sounds fairly unstoppable too. The weather should improve, but I don’t know if fixing one of three will be sufficient. If only the Ancient Mariner were here to help?
Some California restaurants are asking customers to BYOL. We took the opposite tack: we confiscated the lime wedge from a recent margarita at Cactus Cantina (which, by the way, has returned to mediocrity, refried beans and the marg being particularly disappointing; our excellent visit a couple of years ago evidently being an aberration) and took it home for future use. Other restaurants are allegedly subbing lemons for limes in guacamole and margaritas, but it’s hard to imagine that going over well. This HuffPo article lays out some evidence that we have hoist ourselves on our own citrusy petard. You know it’s bad when even the fake news is raising the alarm.
So the ol’ Lime Index has been trending precipitously downward for months now. Has it bottomed out? Maybe — assuming weather improves this spring as usual, there should be at least a slight price drop and higher quality. But in the long run, we lime lovers may be in trouble.
Closer to home, we have evidence especially from H Mart, which used to be our best lime source, but lately prices have been 3/$2 with horrible quality, small hard fruit with big brown spots. Quality has been better at (shockingly) Giant and Safeway, with similar prices but comparatively larger, juicier, greener fruit.
Worst of all, Mrs. Me recently made an emergency lime run to Hung Phat, as we sometimes find it necessary to do, only to find limes outragously priced at 99 cents apiece — at least that would have been the price, had there been any limes. The bin was depressingly empty. When she asked the guy behind the counter about it, he referred her to a woman, and when Mrs. Me. started to say “Limes?–” the woman preemptively shouted “NO!!” and walked away.
I might be defensive too if I ran a bodega where limes are usually one of the best things going. The point is, this really is a crisis. If you care about limes, anyway.
If you don’t care about limes, you probably aren’t reading this blog in the first place. On the other hand, limes aren’t the only food in crisis right now. For example, shrimp cocktail enthusiasts are also hitting the panic button. It’s enough to make a person pessimistic about the long term global food supply…