The Difference Between Lemons and Limes

A few weeks ago, I asked the people who follow my Twitter account to describe the difference between lemons and limes. My immediate prompt was because I was trying to explain that some languages use the same word for both citrus fruits, and others only have a word for one or the other, and thus are forced to use descriptors to distinguish between which one is being specified.

But the responses I got back ranged from charming to insightful, and all demonstrated just how strongly lemons and limes affect our senses. Here’s a sample of the responses from Twitter and Facebook.

The literalist:

  • baffled: Easy: lemons are lemony and limes are more limey

The bitter-sweet battle:

  • ericagee: Limes are a little bit sweeter and a lot bit tarter :).
  • antichason: lemons have a bitter undertone to the sour, while limes are sweeter. Which is why limeade will always be superior to lemonade.
  • choirshark: lemons vs. limes: lemons are rarely tasting bitter to me, lime do sometimes

The poets:

  • freshelectrons: limes have a little taste of moonlight and silver in with the sunshine / citrus aromatics
  • Wiley Wiggins: Lemons have a sweeter darker flavor, Limes are sharper and metallic, the sweetness is married closer to the acidity. The acid in lemons is fruitier.

A few charming responses:

  • gwentown: Easy: limes are better. [I loved the blatantly opinionated response here.]
  • danwolfgang: lemons are great for lemonade, limes are great for marinades. [This sounded like Dorothy Parker to me.]
  • otherniceman: lemons }{, limes () [Obviously nerdy, but still somehow clearly correct.]

And then, those that were least literal and perhaps most evocative. These caught my eye because (at least as I read them) they seemed like totally unselfconscious responses based on how we perceive the taste and smell of these fruits.

Thanks to everyone who responded. If you’re looking for a scientific distinctions between the two species, you can consult your favorite reference materials to learn about Citrus aurantifolia or C. latifolia (limes) and Citrus limon (lemons). A quick Google search for comparisons between the two fruit will yield a large number of people saying that limes are just unripened lemons. These people are stupid and should learn from the wisdom of the folks I’ve quoted above.