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Perrine lemons are small, much closer in size to a lime, measuring between 4 and 5 centimeters in diameter. They have a yellow rind that may still have traces of pale green. They have an elongated shape like that of a traditional lemon, only slightly more rounded. The rinds are thin with a pale-yellow pulp divided into 12 segments. Fruits have anywhere from 3 to 10 seeds. Having a higher acidity, closer to that of a traditional lemon, juicy Perrine lemons offer a lime-like tart flavor.
Perrine lemons are available in the mid-fall and throughout the winter months.
Perrine lemons are a hybrid variety of Citrus aurantifolia known as a lemonime. They are a cross between the West Indian lime and Genoa lemon. It was given the name Perrine as an homage to botanist and physician, Dr. Henry Perrine, for his great contribution to the citrus industry in Florida. He was responsible for introducing numerous varieties of tropical produce and citrus to the Florida region in the mid-1800s. One of the items he introduced was the Mexican or West Indian lime that would become the parent citrus for a multitude of hybrid varieties, including the Perrine lemon.
Perrine lemons are high in vitamin C and are a good source of folate. They also contain minerals like potassium, copper, phosphorus, and magnesium. Perrine lemons (like all lemons) are also rich in plant flavonoids and the phytonutrient limonin, which together with vitamin C give them rich antioxidant and anti-cancer properties.
Perrine lemons can be used in any recipe calling for citrus, whether it is lemons or limes. The hybrid fruit’s juice will tenderize meats in marinades and denature the fish and shellfish in ceviche. It can be used in beverages, desserts, dressings, or added to dishes for additional acidity. Make a granita or sorbet with Perrine lemon juice. Store Perrine lemons at room temperature for up to a week, refrigerate for up to a month.
Perrine lemons are considered an important lemonime hybrid because of its resistance to several diseases that tend to plague both lemons and limes. Both France and Australia have recognized the potential of the Perrine lemon as rootstock for other citrus, but its cold hardiness has proven to be problematic. At one time, Perrine lemons were prolific in southern Florida until a hard freeze destroyed the whole crop. They were later replaced by the Persian lime.
The Perrine lemon was developed in 1909 by Walter T. Swingle, a revered botanist and horticulturalist who was responsible for many named plant varieties, and his associates at the United States Department of Agriculture. Perrine lemons were first introduced in 1931 at the Miami meeting of the Florida State Horticultural Society. Though Perrine lemons have yet to experience success in the commercial marketplace, they are good candidates for use in citrus breeding programs due to a natural resistance to lemon scab. Perrine lemons are not commercially available in California. In Florida, they might be spotted at local orchards or at farmer’s markets.