Category Archives: Limes

Lime Crisis Update

Many thanks to commenter BEI for pointing out that Martha Stewart is apparently unaffected by the lime crisis. Mrs. Me can attest that I have always had a little crush on Martha and this just makes me love her even more despite the increasing evidence that she is basically John Galt come to life. I am irrational from scurvy. Does Martha have her own lime cartel?  I wouldn’t be surprised.  At least she probably has a lime orchard on her estate.  Make me a margarita, Martha!

On another bright note, Trader Joe’s is now the go-to lime source, with 49-cent fruit in good condition, and bags of limes for less than $3, working out to even less than 49 cents.  I’d rather Hung Phat or H Mart got back to their former glory, but at least TJ is something for the time being.

And we can add coffee beans to limes and shrimp in the crisis bucket. Insult to injury. Can’t we have any good things anymore?  Thank goodness bacon isn’t in crisis!


If blogging is light going forward, it is because I am delirious and unable to write due to lack of sustenance from the four basic food groups: limes, bacon, iced coffee, and whatever Martha is serving.  Rescue me, Martha Stewart!

The Great 2014 Lime Crisis

Lime Index

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…

Lime Index for Early Spring 2014: We’re Doomed?

Lime Index

The Lime Index

When last we indexed the limes, on March 3, it was snowing.  Now it is March 30 and it is…snowing.  This is the Wheaton in Maryland, not the one in the Arctic Circle. With endless winter maintaining its frigid course it’s no wonder H Mart has replaced their citrus section with an assortment of Turkish Delights.*

* Some parts of that paragraph are not true, but it really is snowing.  Cripes.

It isn’t snowing in Mexico (as far as we know), origin of most U.S. lime imports, but other problems there are depressing quality and increasing prices. David Karp’s essay “Is The Lime an Endangered Species?” in today’s New York Times suggests things may get worse before they get better, and they may never get better.  We can only hope he is overplaying the doom and gloom.

Alas, Karp may be the canary in the lime tree. Have we reached Peak Lime?  Who would have thought the world’s crude oil supply would outlast its Persian Lime supply?   You know you’re in trouble when the NYT is talking about the declining lime situation. I can’t tell if I’m more depressed about the weather or the limes.

Actually, I can tell — the weatherpersons inform me it will be sunny and 70 by Tuesday, whereas limes will still be small and not-juicy and relatively expensive on Tuesday.  Recent prices include 3/$2 at most grocery stores, including Wegman’s in Columbia and the Wheaton Safeway.  H Mart I think was 3/$1 last weekend but terrible quality.  Even Hung Phat may not be able to bail us out this time.

Hoooooboy.  What will we do for margaritas and guacamole in a decade?


Lime Index, March 2014

Lime Index

The Lime Index

Will the snows never cease?  Or, alternatively, can we get some of this weather in July and August?

We in greater DC bemoan our tough 2013-14 winter, but think of how the poor Florida citrus feels.  Orange crops are getting hammered by frost, opening the door to Brazilian imports — unless we just stop drinking the stuff.*

O winter of our citrus discontent. There are no Florida lime crops to hammer, for better or worse. Recent local lime prices:

  • Hung Phat: 2/$1, pricier than normal and mediocre quality
  • H Mart:  a week ago 3/$1, this weekend 5/$2, pricier than normal and not great quality, in fact poor quality by their standards
  • Giant: 5/$2, mediocre quality
  • Rodman’s (Viers Mill/Randolph): 3/$1, good quality (not quite in Wheaton but we will travel for good limes)

Mexican lime prices are up 20% — turns out organized crime had been artificially depressing prices.  Or are they up 300%?  How many Zimbabwean dollars will a lime cost by the end of the year?  At least they are avoiding the dread yellow dragon plague.  This is important because the U.S. has no lime production anymore, and the vast majority of our limes come from Mexico.

Argentina lime exports are up, that can’t be bad (can it?).  No, it can’t be bad, but it could be false: the USDA January 2014 citrus world market report says Argentina lime exports are expected to drop due to frost.  Not to fear: Turkey and the EU are expected to “meet rising demand.”  As long as someone has the limes covered…

* The history of orange juice, in the context of advertising, is fascinating to me.  I think books have been written, but here’s a recent Atlantic article, and a more technical study.   And a couple of fabulous blasts from the past:

THIS much

THIS much

OJ, Oh Joy

Canned OJ, Oh Joy

Lime Index, Alaska/Vancouver Edition

Lime Index

Lime Index: Trending up?

Almost forgot to discuss Alaska’s lime situation.  It was easy to forget, since there is no Alaskan lime situation.  We did not see (or smell or hear or Spidey-sense) a single lime the entire time we were in Alaska.  Juneau organic supermarket with a good (for Alaska) produce section: no limes.  Skagway farmers market: no limes.  Restaurants: no limes.  We ordered no cocktails, so maybe all the limes are squirreled away by bartenders for G&Ts, I don’t know.  But the lack of limes up there would have been depressing if I hadn’t been so distracted by glaciers and whales and IPAs and whatnot.

Canada has limes!: 3/.99 cents at the Langley Farm Market in Lansdown Centre, Richmond.  Good quality, from Mexico.  No scurvy in Richmond.

Wheaton also (still) has limes: Mrs. Me recently hit Korean Korner (Viers Mill at Randolph), where she found six/$1, and good quality — a new local winner?  Korean Korner is just slightly farther for me than H Mart, much less Hung Phat, so it is not in my rotation (or even really my consciousness) but I may have to go more often if this is indicative of KK’s overall produce or broader food selection.

Surely it must be indicative: everything we need to know, we learned from the lime index.

Lime Index for August 2013

Lime Index

The Lime Index

I hope nobody succumbed to scurvy while the lime index was on hiatus.  The index is back, but of course the limes never left.  Recent pricing:

  • H Mart: 4/$1, mixed quality, some gems but overall on the small side and insufficiently juicy;
  • Hung Phat: 3/$1, pricing hasn’t changed for ages, fewer gems but more consistently decent, although sometimes they turn out to be less juicy than expected based on size, color, and squeezability — don’t be afraid to gently squeeze the Charmin limes;
  • Trader Joe’s: 29 cents apiece, not far off the H Mart price and better quality on average, TJs is a good lime source, plus if you’re having a party you can buy a bag, making the price per lime even better;
  • Safeway/Giant: generally 3/$2 and mediocre quality, not worth it;
  • Wegmans: varies, often 2/$1 and usually good quality;
  • Whole Foods: 2/$1, mixed quality and below-average size.

In general, lime price and quality have been both reasonable and stable lately, which is nice, although average quality is not currently at its apex.  What’s that? More details?  Certainly, sir and/or madam:

USDA reports that “Global [lemon and lime] production is estimated down 2 percent to 6.6 million tons on weather-related issues in the EU and Turkey. Global exports are estimated lower on reduced available supplies from Turkey.”

Most of our limes come from Mexico,* and there’s still room for growth there — and who knew that limes are increasingly being used in pharmaceuticals?  Should I be bathing in margaritas? Or at least rubbing them on my face before bed? I haven’t quite gotten to that point, but it’s something to consider.  A little surprising I hadn’t already thought of it. Also, the Guatemalans are ramping up lime production.  The more the merrier!  Especially given how green and delicious the limes in that link look.

* more than 96% of U.S. lime imports are from Mexico, about 1.5% from Guatemala and the rest from various other countries.  Overall volume in 2012-13 is way up over previous years.  The U.S. also exports limes, but total export volume (mostly to Canada) is less than 1% of total import volume.   Isn’t that fascinating? Data via USDA Economic Research Service.

Even Sioux City has discovered the awesomeness of the lime.  Although this statement seems wrong: “And what should you drink to wash down all this lime goodness? Obviously, limeade.”  Not sure “obviously” is quite the right word there. They do suggest adding vodka a few sentences later, but really, has the margarita not yet made its way to Iowa?  I have not yet made my way to Iowa, ever, so I  am at a total loss here.

Finally, beware the scourge of phytophotodermatitis — a real thing, as poor Rachel recently discovered.  Second degree burns, yikes!  And she delivers the photographic evidence. Maybe that’s the answer to whether I should be rubbing limes on my face — although I have been working hard in recent years to develop immunity to phytophotodermatitis (also to vitameatavegemin and iocaine powder), and I also try to squeeze my limes indoors when possible.  Safety first!

National Margarita Day

Is…today?  Seems superfluous; every day is margarita day.  Even when the lime index is low — and indeed the H-Mart-sourced fruit we have at home right now is subpar — one ought always have a container of limeade in the freezer, ready to go in an emergency.

Still, we will celebrate appropriately.  Any excuse…

Winter 2012 Lime Index

It’s been awhile since we did one of these.  The lime quality-price ratio has held mercifully steady this winter, with usually decent-to-high quality H Mart limes at 4/$1 and often even better quality Hung Phat limes at 3/$1.  Safeway and Giant and Wegman’s are all in the 2/$3 neighborhood, sometimes worse, and not usually any better quality.  Considering last winter’s lime disaster, this is all rainbows and unicorns.

Lime Index

The Lime Index

But how long can we ride this gravy lime juice train until it derails?*  That will be one sticky, delicious, depressing derailment.  We in the U.S. are increasingly dependent on Mexican limes (brief explanation why is here), and Mexican lime crops are on a moderate but decidedly downward trend.

* The O’Jays sang “Love Train” so I feel like maybe I can get away with this metaphor (get it? O’Jay? OJ? Orange Juice? Love Train? Lime Train?)…maybe not.

Thanks to the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service’s Global Agriculture Information Network, we can keep tabs on international lime data: Mexican production of Persian limes is down about 5% year over year from 2010 to 2011 to (expected) 2012.  Which means prices are likely to creep up — although maybe not, since reportedly the domestic Mexican lime market is saturated (how is that even possible!?) so they may increase exports.  If we’re lucky, at least quality might be maintained. Here is one excerpt from the USDA FAS GAIN (whew) 2011 annual report (published 12/15/2011) for Mexican citrus (whole report here in PDF):

Veracruz went through a series of weather events that affected the flowering of the Persian lime trees. During September/October 2011, expected rainfall did not materialize and during November it rained when it should have been drier. The state of Michoacán was hit by heavy rainfall from Hurricane “Hilary” in September 2011 affecting the flowering of Key lime trees. During the month of October, hurricane “Jova” affected Key lime trees in the state of Colima.

Here is a vivid PPT deck on the Mexican lime industry. For neither this nor the GAIN report will I say “read the whole thing” — but to me, it is kind of interesting.  My lime obsession is starting to remind me of Adrian Mole and the Norwegian leather industry — not that there’s anything (much) wrong with that.

Labor Day Lime Index

Bad times for limes.  Three for $1 at H-Mart but poor quality and selection.  Three for $2 at various Giants, and $1 per lime at the Kensington Safeway.  Are you kidding me? At least those looked big and juicy, but still.  Crazy prices.

Lime Index September 2011

Evidently weather is wreaking havoc on lime crops in Mexico and Brazil.  More evidence.  On the other hand, maybe the Russians are diverting the best limes to their burgeoning market. Or else some big lime shipments are being held as evidence, as in this case where a truckful of limes bound for New Jersey was found to contain more than $2 million worth of marijuana.  The way lime prices are going, I wonder if the cartels would be better off trying to smuggle limes?

Springtime for H Mart

I guess it’s summer now but whatever, H Mart seems all springy, happy, bunnies and leprechauns and fresh air.  Perhaps it is because the limes are back to consistently high quality, and most recently were six for $1?  I wonder who is in charge of lime procurement and price-setting?  I assume the Lime Manager has to sample the merchandise, for quality control.  How much is the pay? I might like that job.

The Lime Index

The Wheaton H-Mart has a big banner up advertising their sponsorship of the “Kimchi Chronicles,” apparently a Korean food show coming to national PBS television in July, featuring (incongruously) Jean-Georges Vongerichten — turns out his wife is half Korean and she will host, he will sidekick.  Looks like celebrities like Hugh Jackman and Heather Graham will also narrate or make cameos.  Star-studded!  Not to mention someone billed as “The Julia Child of [a town in Korea I didn’t quite catch].” The photography looks brilliant based on the preview.

That’s high-brow. This is low-brow:

pepero nude

Live Nude Pepero!!!

Pepero Nude!  Lotte makes a whole lotte good stuff.  They also have Pepero Almond, but not Pepero Fully-clothed. The subtitle for Pepero Nude is “Chocolate filled bicuit sticks” which seems more truth-in-advertising but less fun. Is it fair to say H Mart is a clothing-optional shopping environment?  Maybe only if you are filled with chocolate?