Limes vs Lemons: Are Limes Unripe Lemons? (2023)

Limes can turn yellow when they become overripe, and lemons are green when they are underripe. So you can be forgiven for thinking they are the same fruit.

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In actuality, while they come from the same family of citrus fruits, they are not the same fruit at different stages of life.

Lemons turn from green to yellow as the chlorophyll in the rind is replaced with anthocyanin as they ripen.

Limes will turn a yellow color too when they are fully ripened, but they are often picked when under-ripe and green. This is because they are easier to transport and will last longer in stores if they are less ripe when picked and shipped.

The scientific name for lemons is Citrus limon whereas the lime’s is Citrus aurantifolia. This shows that they are both descended from a common ancestor, but are not in fact the same species.

Where do they grow?

Limes need a warmer temperature to grow and are often grown in tropical and subtropical climates.

Brazil and Mexico produce around 40% of the globe’s Persian and West Indian lime supply. They are also grown commercially in Israel, Vietnam, Guatemala, and other South American countries.

(Video) benefits of lemons vs limes

Lemons are hardier and can be found growing in moderate climates around the globe. The largest exporters of lemons are Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, India, and China.

In the US, the USDA gives areas of land plant hardiness zones depending on the climate. Lemons are grown in American zones 9-11.

What do they taste like?

Limes are more bitter, whereas lemons are sourer.

The taste of limes is often described as tart and acidic, with a slight hint of sweetness.

Lemons tend to be sour and mouth-puckering, but add a very refreshing sense to whatever you are using them in.

What do they look like?

Limes tend to be smaller than lemons, and are often much more rounded. They usually only reach between 1 and 2 inches in diameter. They have an intense green rind.

It is not only the fruit that is smaller, but lime trees tend to be shorter too. They are fairly slim and have small leaves on the branches.

Lemons are larger and more oval, about 2 to 4 inches in diameter. Lemons are a deep, rich yellow in color when they are ripe.

Lemon trees can grow to become enormous, reaching heights of around 20 feet. They have broader branches and much bigger, more oblong leaves.

How many variations are there?

There are 20 different varieties of limes, ranging from Australian dessert limes to the more common key limes.

The most widely available lime species in the United States are known as the Tahitian or Persian lime, and the Mexican or Key lime.

There are around 25 different variations of lemon species, but the three most common ones are Eureka, Lisbon, and Meyer.

Lisbon lemons have a big ‘nipple’ that stands out on one end of the fruit. Eureka lemons have a much smaller and less pronounced nipple. The rind is also variable between the types.

(Video) LIMES ARE ACTUALLY YELLOW : A Ripe/Unripe Comparison - Weird Fruit Explorer

Meyer lemons have a thin rind, Lisbon lemons have a smooth rind and Eureka lemons have a less even surface.

What are the origins?

In 2011, a group of researchers from China looked into the origins of various citrus fruits. They traced the DNA patterns of hybrid citrus fruits backward to find the species they originated from.

According to their research, lemons are derived from male citrons and female sour oranges. Sour oranges are also a hybrid species, meaning that lemons have a 3-way mix of genetic roots. Sour oranges are a hybrid between pomelos and mandarin oranges.

Key limes are a hybrid between female micranthas and male citrons. Persian limes are a 4-way hybrid as an offspring of key limes and lemons. This means that they have DNA that can be traced to citrons, mandarin oranges, pomelos, and micranthas.

This ancestral link can be used to explain why the two different species of citrus fruits share common traits.

What are the nutritional profiles?

Lemon (1 fruit ~ 108g)

Lime (1 fruit ~ 67g)



















Fat is used in the body as a method of storing excess energy to be used as a fuel source later. You need a moderate amount of fat in your diet to remain healthy. It is used to help your body digest fat soluble vitamins such as A, D, and E.

Carbohydrates provide your body with the most readily available source of energy. If you do not consume enough, this can cause fatigue, nausea, lethargy, and many other issues.

Carbohydrate sources often come with a bucketload of important nutrients. If your intake of carbohydrates is too low, this can potentially cause knock-on effects for other requirements.

Sugar is part of the carbohydrate umbrella and is needed in your diet as an energy source. To keep your intake at a healthy level, you should only allow sugars to make up around 5% of your daily calorie intake.

Too little glucose and your body will enter a state of ketosis as your body breaks down fat into energy.

Fiber is needed to help your digestive system. Too little fiber and you may become constipated which can lead to a whole host of health issues. It also helps to keep you full and ensure your blood cholesterol levels remain stable.

Protein is one of the main building blocks of your body. It is required to create many different tissues in the body and is vital to good health.

There are at least 10,000 different proteins involved in the creation and maintenance of the human body.

(Video) Lemons or Limes?

In terms of micronutrient profiles, this is how the 2 fruits compare.

Lemon (1 fruit ~ 108g)

Lime (1 fruit ~ 67g)

Vitamin A

1% RDA

1% RDA

Vitamin C

139% RDA

32% RDA

Vitamin B6

6% RDA

1% RDA


7% RDA

2% RDA


4% RDA

2% RDA


3% RDA

1% RDA


14% RDA

2% RDA

Both fruits contain a decent amount of Vitamin C for their size, but on all of these micronutrients, the lemon far outperforms the lime.

Vitamin A is important for eyesight, immunity, and fertility. Neither fruit is a good source of this and it will need to be supplemented by the rest of your diet.

Vitamin C prevents you from getting scurvy, and limes used to be given to British sailors suffering from it. This is where their nickname ‘Limeys’ came from. This is because of the large quantities of Vitamin C that are contained within the lime.

It is equally possible that they were given lemons too, as, at this point in time, there was not much distinction between the 2 species.

It helps to keep your body in good overall health and is important to ensure you are not deficient in it. Vitamin C is also used to protect against cell damage and to help with iron absorption.

It is also vital to the formation of collagen in the body, a substance that helps to heal wounds.

Vitamin B6 is used to assist with the transportation of oxygen around the body via your red blood cells. It is vital to the production of hemoglobin and is very important to include in your diet.

Calcium helps your bones grow strong and not break easily. It also helps with the clotting of your blood, contraction of muscles, and the beating of your heart.

Iron is vital to make red blood cells in the body. These are the cells that transport oxygen around the body and keep all of your muscles in working condition.

If you have a prolonged deficiency in iron, you can develop anemia which can be very impactful on your day to day life.

Magnesium regulates nerve and muscle function within the body, as well as blood pressure and blood sugar levels. It is a vital micronutrient to create DNA and proteins.

Copper is also used in the creation of red blood cells. Studies suggest that having a diet rich in copper can help to prevent the development of osteoporosis and cardiovascular diseases.

(Video) Lemons VS Limes the Final Chapter | #lime #lemon

Limes have the most citric acid of any of the citrus fruits. Roughly 8% of the fruit’s weight is citric acid, compared to 5% of a lemon.

When you compare a liter of lime and lemon juice, lemon slightly has the edge in citric acid content. Per liter of lemon juice, there is on average 48g of citric acid, whereas for lime juice this is more commonly around 45.8g.


Both fruits have taken the culinary world by storm. Many recipes use either of their juices and rinds to add some sourness and acidity to a dish.

Lemon is slightly milder and can be used to add a hit of refreshment to any dish! Desserts, such as lemon meringue pie or tarte au citron are beautiful dishes that showcase the lemon’s tangy flavor.

It is commonly added to fish and vegetables to lift the dish.

Lime is commonly used in Mexican, Thai, and Vietnamese dishes. A hugely popular dessert made with limes is Key Lime Pie, a staple American favorite. It is also a common ingredient in ceviches, summer drinks, salsa, and fruit salad.

Both fruits have been made into essential oils to use for both medical and cosmetic goals. They are also commonly used as scents in cleaning products due to their refreshing smell.

Health Benefits

There have been many studies done into the health benefits of citrus fruits. In 2014, a study was conducted into the effects of citric acid on oxidative stress in the brains and livers of lipopolysaccharide treated mice.

This study showed a clear link between the consumption of citric acid and an anti-inflammatory response in the brain and liver.

A 2015 study by a team of Chinese researchers proved that citrus fruits have numerous beneficial health impacts. These include anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-cancer effects.

They can also offer neuroprotective and cardiovascular health benefits. These cardiovascular benefits are due to the flavonoid content, and kaffir lime has even been studied to be used in conjunction with chemotherapy to protect the patient’s heart.

Lemons have a lower GI (glycemic index) than limes, meaning that your blood glucose concentration is reduced. This is because the acidity causes your body to digest starches more slowly.

It has not been tested with limes, however, the hypothesis states that it would have a similar effect. Sweet limes may potentially be used to control diabetes mellitus (Type 1) due to their hypoglycemic effects on the body.

(Video) What is difference between lemon and Lime

Health Risks

The acidity of lemons and limes means that ingesting an excessive amount can lead to GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) and heartburn. This is exacerbated by consuming excess acidity on an empty stomach.

Dentists are not huge fans of citrus, as the acid can eat away at tooth enamel. This can cause your teeth to yellow, become more sensitive, and develop cavities. To reduce the risks of this happening, you can water down the juice or drink it through a straw.

Limonene, a component found in citrus fruits, is a mild irritant to human skin and eyes. If you have a limonene allergy, you can develop contact dermatitis if you touch citrus fruits. Lime vs lemon is an interesting debate on citrus fruit. Both have their place. Lime water and lemon water are both refreshing.Lemon and lime, take your pick.


Are limes just Underripe lemons? ›

Limes are picked when they are fully grown, but still green and unripe. If Limes are allowed to fully ripen on the tree, they actually turn from green to yellow. Because of this, some people believe (erroneously) that Limes are just unripe Lemons. Whereas, truth to tell, even the Lemons that we buy are unripe Lemons.

How can you tell if a lemon is unripe or lime? ›

Apart from its vibrant yellow color, lemons are usually shaped like a small football; slightly pointed on both ends, and a little elliptical. Its skin is bumpier and thicker than limes. Limes, on the other hand, are smaller and more rounded. Its green skin is thinner and smoother than lemons.

Are lemons unripe? ›

All citrus fruits are green while they are still growing on the tree. Lemons lose their green colour as they ripen because the chlorophyll pigment is replaced with a chemical called anthocyanin. Many lime species would also turn yellow if you left them on the tree long enough, but they never get a chance.

Do limes turn into lemons when they turn yellow? ›

Sweet limes might be mistaken for lemons since they are yellow when ripe and ready to use. They have less acid than Tahitian or Key. They are popular in India, Vietnam, Egypt, and along the Mediterranean coast. Limes are yellow when they are fully ripe and develop sugars that make them delicious at this stage.

Are limes genetically modified? ›

Researchers at the University of Florida Citrus Research and Education Center have modified the genetic code of limes, making the popular fruit more resilient and healthier for you, and giving it a colorful new tinge.

Do unripe lemons taste like limes? ›

An unripe lemon does not taste like a lime. It tastes like a bitter lemon. A lime is a seprate fruit, not and unripe lemon.

Can a lemon tree turn into a lime tree? ›

Also known as a cocktail tree, the lemon lime tree is an incredible plant: it grows both lemons and limes! Through grafting or planting two trees in the same pot, the Meyer lemon and the classic key lime combine into one tree, and one single delicious fruit.

Will limes ripen on the counter? ›

Unlike most fruit, limes (and most citrus) don't continue to ripen after they are picked, so they won't ripen and get softer after you bring them home.

What's the difference between a lemon and a lime? ›

Because they contain more citric acid, lemons typically have a more sour flavor. But, they are also more floral, and their rind is easier to peel and zest. While limes have a more sweet and balanced flavor, they are sometimes less pungent.

What does an unripe lime look like? ›

Green limes are, in fact, underripe. When allowed to fully ripen on the tree, they turn pale yellow. But since we're so accustomed to seeing green limes at the supermarket, light green and yellow-ish limes can seem suspect.

When should you avoid lemons? ›

It can aggravate stomach problems and heartburn

Therefore, you should consult a doctor before drinking lemon water if you experience any symptoms. People with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) should avoid excess intake of lemon juice.

Is there a cross between a lemon and a lime? ›

Lemonimes are lemon X lime hybrids.

Should you pick lemons before they turn yellow? ›

Lemons are ripe when they reach 2 inches in diameter. They can have a green, yellowish green, or even a fully yellow color and still be ready to pick. Lemons will continue to ripen and turn yellow after being picked.

Do limes eventually turn orange? ›

Some limes, such as the calamansi and rangpur varieties, are really more like sour oranges, turning orange when ripe.

Do limes exist naturally? ›

lime, any of several species and hybrids of trees and shrubs of the genus Citrus (family Rutaceae), widely grown in tropical and subtropical areas for their edible acidic fruits. The Persian lime (Citrus ×latifolia) is one of the most common commercial varieties, though the smaller key lime, or Mexican lime (C.

Is lime peel poisonous? ›

Answer. Yes, you can eat the rind of a lime. The outer layer can be used for zesting to add flavor to water and beverages, dressings, marinades, and baked goods. Did you know the juice and zest from lemons or limes can work as a salt substitute and may help prevent the cold and flu?

Do lemons exist naturally? ›

The lemon (Citrus limon) is a species of small evergreen trees in the flowering plant family Rutaceae, native to Asia, primarily Northeast India (Assam), Northern Myanmar or China. A fruiting lemon tree.

Is lime in water good for you? ›

Drinking lime water improves digestion. Limes are acidic and they help saliva break down food for better digestion. Additionally, flavonoids in limes stimulate secretion of digestive juices. If you experience constipation, the acidity of limes can clear the excretory system and stimulate bowel activity.

Are Mexican lemons green? ›

Small, green-yellowish in color and with a thin peel, the Mexican lime (Citrus aurantifolia) is the most popular variety consumed in Mexico.

Which has more vitamin C lemon or lime? ›

Lemons have a higher concentration of vitamin C than limes, but limes have only a slightly higher concentration of citric acid.

What is a cross between lemon and orange? ›

Meyer lemons are a thin-skinned hybrid fruit, part lemon and part mandarin orange, making them much sweeter than the kind of lemon you'd see at a grocery store. You can't find Meyer lemons on your grocery run, since they aren't grown commercially.

Why do my lemons look like limes? ›

Your lemons may not yet be fully ripe. So just wait a bit longer. Depending on your climate and local conditions, lemons can take up to 9 months or longer to ripen! My trees often produce so much fruit, we're still using them from last season while the tree is producing new season flowers.

Do you need two lemon trees to produce fruit? ›

Pollinating and Pruning Your Indoor Lemon Tree

Unlike some fruit trees, lemons are self-pollinating. That means they don't need pollen from another lemon tree in order to bear fruit. But in nature, lemon trees rely on insects to pollinate their blossoms. Better pollination translates to more and better fruit.

What month do you pick limes? ›

Limes are usually at their peak from May to October, but growing them in containers that you can bring indoors enables them to flourish in almost any climate at any time of year. Dwarf Bears lime trees bear fruit that is juicy and seedless, and the tree itself will fit nicely in a pot in your garden or house.

Is a lime still good if it turns yellow? ›

Yellow limes are far juicier and less acidic than the green phase. Because they've had time to mature, the natural sugars have developed, making them sweeter and delicious. If you want to give the yellow lime a try, don't simply leave a green one on the counter or windowsill to ripen.

Should you refrigerate limes? ›

Citrus Fruits

Lemons, limes, and oranges all do best in the fridge because the cooler temperature prevents them from drying out. They'll keep for up to two weeks when chilled and about one week at room temperature.

Why is it good to put lemon in your water? ›

Like all produce, lemons contain phytonutrients, which protect your body against disease. These phytonutrients have powerful antioxidant properties, which prevent cell damage from oxidation, the same mechanism that causes rust. Juice half a lemon into your water and you'll add a mere 6 calories to your diet.

What are the side effects of lime for female? ›

It can cause itching, burning, dryness, pain, and other symptoms. Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There isn't enough reliable information to know if lime is safe to use when pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use of lime as medicine.

What time of year do lemons ripen? ›

The harvest time for lemons varies, with warm or coastal climates such as California, Florida and Texas producing year-round. Inland varietals are generally ready for harvest in the fall and winter. With proper care, a citrus tree will start bearing fruit in its second year.

How do you ripen store bought limes? ›

Just add your fruit into a paper bag, seal it, and wait a few days! The key here is ethylene. Ethylene is a natural gas given off by fruit that helps in ripening. To speed things up even faster, we recommend adding in an apple or banana!

Are green limes unripe? ›

And when they cross pollinated, Persian limes resulted. To confuse things more, all three start green and ripen to yellow. So no, green limes aren't unripe lemons. They're simply unripe limes!

Are hard limes ripe? ›

Limes that are ripe will be firm, but not hard, squeezable, but not too soft. Those that are too ripe are quite soft while limes that don't give when you squeeze them are not ripe enough.

Why we should not drink lemon water in the morning? ›

Drinking lemon water regularly can cause enamel erosion or tooth decay because of the acid in the citrus fruit. Too much lemon water can also lead to heartburn, nausea, vomiting, and other gastroesophageal reflux symptoms.

Is it harmful to drink lemon water daily? ›

Lemon water is generally safe to drink, but there are a few potential side effects to be aware of. Lemon contains citric acid, which may erode tooth enamel over the long term. To limit the risk, drink lemon water through a straw, and rinse your mouth with plain water afterward.

Does lemon water detox your liver? ›

Many citrus fruits, including lemon, can be added to water to help stimulate and flush out the liver. To help improve liver function, enjoy 4-6 tablespoons of lemon juice mixed with water each day.

Do immature lemons look like limes? ›

Lemons are usually bright yellow, while limes are typically a bright shade of green. However, certain types of limes will turn yellow as they ripen, making the distinction a little more difficult. Limes are also smaller and rounder than lemons.

What does a unripe lemon look like? ›

Yellow lemons usually indicate ripeness — green lemons are usually the unripe ones that can still grow and develop. 2. We can take a look at the size of lemon fruits — if they have reached about 2 inches, then they are probably ready to be harvested.

What color do limes start out as? ›

All About Sweet Limes

Like their tart lime cousins, sweet limes start off green but turn into a bright yellow that often has people confusing them for lemons.

Why are limes seedless but not lemons? ›

Typical limes, those you'd find in the grocery store, are "parthenocarpic," which means that the flowers don't need to be fertilized to make new fruit. So, seeds aren't necessary.

What color are limes when not ripe? ›

You may be surprised to learn that the green limes we are so familiar on the store shelves are not fully ripe. A lime that is left on the tree to ripen will turn yellow.

How can you tell if a lime is ripe? ›

Give your limes a little squeeze first, and take note whether or not they "give" a little when you do so. Limes that are ripe will be firm, but not hard, squeezable, but not too soft. Those that are too ripe are quite soft while limes that don't give when you squeeze them are not ripe enough.

Can you pick unripe lemons? ›

When lemons appear yellow or yellowish-green, are firm in appearance, and have reached two to three inches in size, they're ready to pluck. Lemons prefer to ripen on the tree, so if you pick them too soon you may be out of luck. Ripe lemons have a glossy skin and are not ripe until the color truly develops.

What does an immature lemon look like? ›

Immature lemons have green skin, they are smaller in size, and they don't have that specific citrusy fragrance. Mature lemons are large and oblong, and they have smooth, yellow skin.

How can you tell if a lemon is safe to eat? ›

Thankfully it's pretty easy, and there are a few ways you can tell if a lemon is bad. A bad lemon has bruising, discoloration, brown spotting on the peel, and soft spots. In advanced stages of decay, lemons can have green or white mold spots on their shriveled peels, and the lemon may be dried out inside.

Do lemons ripen after picking? ›

Lemons will have glossy skin and can be green, greenish yellow, or fully yellow when ripe. Lemons are citrus plants that continue to ripen after being picked. This means that ripe lemons can turn yellow after you bring them home. Lemon trees will bear fruit sometime between 4 and 12 months after the flowers blossom.

Can you grow a lime tree from a lime? ›

However, most citrus seeds are relatively easy to grow, including those from limes. While it's possible to grow a lime tree from seed, don't expect to see any fruit right away. The downside to growing lime trees from seed is that it can take anywhere from four to ten years before they produce fruit, if at all.


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