As every gardener knows, what you hope or intend for your little patch of earth isn’t always what you get. Like last spring when I accidentally planted hot peppers thinking they were sweet. Or when, many years ago, my mom mistakenly thought she had planted a Mexican lime tree in her backyard.
Her “limes” turned out to be Rangpurs, which are not true limes at all. A Rangpur lime is a fragrant, smoky-sour cross between a mandarin and a lemon. They are so sour that my mother’s tree nearly met its end more than once, when she’s contemplated uprooting it in favor of a lime she could more easily use. (As if in direct response, the tree has grown like crazy — so happily that she hasn’t had the heart to dig it up.) Of course, after I started making preserves and discovering lesser known citrus fruits, I realized she had accidentally planted a gold mine. Consider . . .
- a 5-ounce bottle of Rangpur lime syrup from an artisan syrup maker would set you back $12
- the New York Times sent readers to specialty stores to find Rangpur limes — at a cost of $9 per pound — for cocktails, for use in meat glazes, or as a replacement for key limes in pie
- you can have an excellent recipe for Rangpur lime marmalade for the price of the Blue Chair Jam Cookbook.
That tree — which has by now grown big enough to yield about a hundred pounds of fruit per year — started looking pretty good!
Rangpur limes aren’t for everyone. My mom still doesn’t love them and, apparently, David Lebovitz doesn’t much care for them, either. (He says they are “a bit too musky” for his taste.) I adore them. The complex scent — bright, floral, and, yes, musky — puts an immediate smile on my face. And for some reason I can bite straight into one without making the shocked and then scrunchy faces that I’ve seen when others do the same. They are sour. That’s what makes them so good.
As far as what to do with them, you could start with the ideas above. Also, I just made a really nice Rangpur Lime Jam. Or you could head over to the beautiful Apt. 2B Baking Co. blog and take a look at Yossy’s recipe for Rangpur lime bars. (I dare you not to want them.) I am working on my own syrup recipe and it’s coming along, but here’s why I’m not posting it quite yet . . .
Tip: No matter how good it tastes, your Rangpur lime syrup should not look like pee. (The small batch above was adapted from the lime syrup recipe in the Joy of Cooking. It’s a nice recipe, but I don’t recommend it for Rangpurs; the result is just not robust enough.) My second attempt was a lot better — tasty and appropriately orange colored, at least — but it was too thick. (One thing to keep in mind about Rangpurs is that they have lots of pectin; in preserves, their juice will rather quickly form a skin and start to set.) I could probably get a better result if I used corn syrup, as does the Rangpur syrup linked above, but I’d rather do without. I have some ideas for my next attempt, and a good feeling about it, too.
But enough about my plans. I’d like to know what you would do with Rangpur limes, so I’m giving away 5 pounds of them — and do be prepared, because that’s 35-40 limes — from my mother’s tree. (Thanks, mom!) Barring any unforeseen weather disasters, I will pick them and ship them USPS Priority Mail on the same day, to ensure they’re as fresh as possible when they reach you. (Sorry, but I can offer this giveaway only to U.S. residents. Alaskans welcome!) All you have to do is leave a comment below telling me how you might use these orange beauties. I’ll hold a random drawing on Friday, February 10 at 8 p.m., PST, so you can enter right up ’til then.