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Sudachi limes are small, measuring between 3 and 4 centimeters in diameter. They are usually round but have a slightly flattened shape. The fruits mature from a deep green to yellow but are typically harvested when immature and still green. The rind is medium thin, rough and covered in deep oil glands. Sudachi limes are heavier than other varieties due to the quantity of juice the flesh contains. The pale green flesh is aromatic and has a very acidic flavor with notes of cumin and white pepper.
Sudachi limes are available in the fall months. In Japan, they are available year-round.
Sudachi limes are a Japanese variety of citrus, botanically known as Citrus sudachi. They were a spontaneous mutation found on a yuzu lime tree, a hybrid of an ancient citrus variety called papeda and a mandarin. The name “sudachi” loosely translates to either “ruffle” or “sushi” in English. In Japan, Sudachi limes are grown in greenhouses, allowing for year-round production. Much of the fruit production in Japan is grown for juice, which is bottled and shipped all over the world.
Sudachi limes are high in vitamin C and dietary fiber. They also contain calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and the electrolyte potassium. The zest is high in the flavonoid limonene, which provides antioxidant benefits.
Sudachi limes are most often used raw, for their juice. It is used for vinegars and for flavoring fish dishes, as well as for flavoring simple udon or soba noodle soups. Use the juice for ceviche or sashimi. The juice is used in beverages and to flavor alcoholic beverages like shochu, vinaigrettes, and desserts. Thin wedges or slices of Sudachi limes are used as garnish on sushi or cooked fish. The zest can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. Both the zest and pith contain a high amount of pectin, making Sudachi limes ideal for marmalades and jellies. The juice and zest of Sudachi limes are traditionally used to make ponzu, a soy-based, all-purpose sauce used in Japanese cuisine. Sudachi limes will store at room temperature for a few days, and in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
For centuries, Sudachi limes were only known in and around Japan and fresh fruits were not available outside of the region. Sudachi lime juice is in high demand with chefs and those living outside of Japan. It can be purchased online through Japanese companies; however, increasing demand for the fresh fruit in the United States convinced researchers at Riverside’s Citrus Variety Collection to conduct formal testing and evaluation of Sudachi citrus for their commercial potential. Through partnerships with California growers, fresh Sudachi limes have been available in California since 2007.
Sudachi limes are native to Japan, specifically Tokushima Prefecture on Shikoku island, where they have traditionally been grown. The first mention of Sudachi limes was during the 18th century. They were not cultivated in Japan until after 1954. In 1963, a botanist with the Citrus Variety Collection in Riverside, California traveled to Japan to learn more about Japanese citrus varieties, returning with several new varieties, including the Sudachi lime. Since that time in Japan, Sudachi lime production has increased and has become a niche industry. There are at least five different Sudachi lime varieties, including a seedless variety. Budwood has been available in the United States since the late 2000’s, and several small growers in Southern California cultivate the acidic fruits. They can be spotted at local farmer’s markets and in markets specializing in Japanese products.
Recipes that include Sudachi. One is easiest, three is harder.
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