Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Key Lime tree is back


I was finally able to buy my wife her favorite citrus tree, a Key Lime tree, which we Cubans call "limon criollo" or "creole lemon" even though they are not lemons at all but small yellow limes.
Key limes are much smaller, seedier, have a higher acidity, stronger aroma, a much thinner rind than regular limes, and are jucier and more tart than their larger, more common green cousins. The name comes from its association with the Florida Keys where it is best known as the main ingredient in the world-famous Key Lime pie.

Ever since I can remember we always had a Key Lime tree in the backyard. Then, five years ago, the State of Florida ordered all citrus trees in South Florida destroyed because of the advent of Citrus Canker, a lethal disease that ruins citrus fruit and is thought to be highly contagious from tree to tree (although today that is highly debated). The death sentence of our local private trees was passed by the state to protect the central and northern Florida billion-dollar commercial citrus industry. In order to prevent the potential impact on this important Florida commerce, the state ordered what we gardeners call the atomic bomb solution and proceeded to cut down every orange, lime, lemon, and grapefruit tree in South Florida homes and nurseries. Every tree was targeted, no arguments from home or nursery owners--if you had a citrus tree in your back yard or business, it had to go. The massacre of our citrus trees sometime turned ugly with some people threatening state employees (the "executioners" maybe) with violence and police being called. Many lawsuits were filed and all to no avail. Many homeowners with heirloom trees that had been in their yards for decades saw them cut down in one afternoon. Afterward, the state put a moratorium on the sale of citrus trees in South Florida for five years. Now, at last, we are again permitted to grow citrus in our gardens.
Try to imagine a Florida garden without a citrus tree; it's like living in Vermont and not having an apple tree! Thank heaven our citrus is back!

13 comments:

My Little Family: said...

A couple years ago we had a bumper crop of key limes so I squeezed up a bunch of them and made limeade. Then I went outside and scrubbed the tile line of the pool before starting to work in the garden but my hand were stinging. To make a long story short, I ended up with badly blistered hands and a trip to the dermatologist where I learned that lime juice makes your skin hyperphotosensitive even after you've washed them. It was awful for about a week.

jodi (bloomingwriter) said...

I learned about this embargo disaster only because I had read a mystery novel (one of Patricia Cornwell's, I believe) in which a murder suspect was posing as a disease inspector. Like you, I can't imagine (even though I've never been there) your region without citrus in the back yard.
Have never seen a real key lime nor eaten real key lime pie. Someone made me one from a mix and it was appallingly ghastly.

GardenJoy4Me said...

Rusty ! You have revamped your blog and I missed seeing it until now .. it is GREAT ! Very pleasing to the garden eye : )
I had no idea about all of this terrible mess with citrus trees .. I feel for the people that loved their trees and having them for so long .. it must have been heart breaking.
This little one you now have planted looks beautiful ! I hope you have many wonderful memories and tastes with it : ) Joy

Cheryl said...

Hi Rusty....thank you for the memory...key lime pie....I enjoyed many portions of that when I visited Florida...delicious......

A beautiful tree, I am sure your wife will enjoy watching this little beauty grow.....

Jacquie said...

Those were dark days indeed. Not only did I lose 5 treasured trees, but one in particular broke my heart to no end. My grandfather, who taught me the love of plants, had air layered a calamodin tree that I planted soon after I moved in in Miami Springs. The calamondin has been the signature flavor for my family and every house from Hialeah to Daytona, FL has one. With no evidence of canker it was slayed, beautiful fruits and all. The rotten jerks even stole my first crop of ruby red grapefruits. All these years later, I smuggled in a Calamondin back just before they lifted the banned. Alas, every last citrus tree is struggling terribly. My worst fear is citrus greening. I am looking for a professional diagnosis before I make the final decision.

Darla said...

I am so happy for you!! Citrus trees are a must.

Nicole said...

Great you have your tree again. Not too long ago almost every backyard in the Caribbean had a key lime tree. I just got 2 key lime saplings this weekend at the flower show. i had a grafted lime tree but it didn't last here.

Randy Emmitt said...

Rusty,

Yummy Key Limes, When I visited TX I bought lots of Key Limes and made Key Lime pie it takes 40 of them to make one small pie. Enjoyed the lime flower photos and glad you now have one in the yard.

Kara said...

Hello there! I am a veggie and fruit gardener in Palm City- a bit north of you. Have you seen any problems with Greening in your area? I talked to my local Extension Office here and they said it was even worse than canker! I'm terrified for my poor lemon and fruit cocktail trees!

Kara said...

Hello again!

Just heard back from the Extension Office and my cocktail tree doesn't have Greening!

If you need any info on it though, I linked the UF sites in my blog. Just follow along and they'll tell you how to monitor for it.

I'm looking for a key lime tree at the moment! I'll keep you posted if we find a good one!

Anonymous said...

Anyone know where I can buy KL tree's in the Fort Lauderdale area?

Scott said...

I also am in Fort Lauderdale and have been looking for a Lime tree has any one seen one in a local nursery?

Tiffany said...

I live in downtown Austin and have a tiny balcony on the 3r floor. My boyfriend is limiting me to one citrus tree and we can't decide between a lemon and a lime. I've heard of fruit cocktail trees and it would solve my problems! I don't have access to graft my own. I am desperate to find one to buy! Please let me know if you know anywhere online to order them from. I'm willing to pay more for an older mature tree. Much thanks!