Lemon and limes might be the food items that you can never skip from your grocery list. Whether using them for infused water, for salad dressing, or baking the delightful lemon cake, these citrus fruits are considered staple in many households.
Are you a gardening enthusiast that just harvested bowls and bowls of lemons and limes. Well, you have enjoyed the lime with shots of tequila, made them into jars or lemonade, and you still have plenty of them.
This situation led you to questions: how to store limes and lemons? Can I freeze them? Do limes and lemons go bad?
No worries, we got you covered! In this article, we provide you with new knowledge on the shelf life of limes and lemons, storage methods, and most importantly how to know if limes and lemons start going bad. Let’s read along!
Lime vs Lemon
Who doesn’t know limes and lemons? These citrus fruits are very popular and are widely used for many purposes, from cooking, cleaning agents, cosmetics, medicine, etc.
Nowadays, both fruits are grown globally. However, lemons are more commonly grown in regions with temperate climates, while limes are typically grown in tropical regions.
Although lime and lemon are pretty much alike, they are different in some aspects. Both fruits are known as a great source of vitamin C, with lemon containing nearly double than that of lime [*, *]. Both fruits are sour, but lemons tend to be slightly sweeter while limes can be a bit bitter.
In terms of culinary use, limes and lemons are used in similar ways. Most times both fruits are used as a substitute for each other and still create great results.
They are best used for marinades, sauce, dressings, drinks, etc. Thanks to the high acid content, both limes and lemons have been known as a natural preservative for many recipes.
How to Store Limes and Lemons
If you use either limes and lemons frequently, chances are you have these citruses in different forms; whole fruit, cut fruit (leftover), freshly squeezed juice, or store-bought juice.
Storage procedures for limes and lemons are pretty much similar.
To begin with, there’s no point if you store fruits that are already in bad condition. Purchase only good quality fruits. Those that look fresh, firm, vibrant in colors, and do not have bruises or moldy parts.
Here are the storage methods for each form of limes and lemons:
1. Fresh limes or lemons
You can simply keep fresh limes or lemons outside the fridge for several days. Store them in a dry, cool area, away from heat and light.
If you don’t plan to use the fruits anytime soon, better to keep them in the fridge for later use. Store them in a compartment or container to prevent the fruits from being squished by other stuff.
If you have plenty of fruits, consider storing them in a resealable bag or in a vacuum bag. Prior to storage, soak the fruits in water and vinegar for ±15-30 minutes, rinse and dry them thoroughly, put into the bag, and store it in the fridge.
2. Cut limes and zested lemon
In many cases, you may only need half lemon, sometimes even just one or two slices. What to do with the leftover lemons? Keep them refrigerated!
If you have fresh cut limes or zested lemons, wrap the pieces with plastic wraps or store them in a sealed container and keep in the fridge. Avoid exposure to air to prevent the fruits from drying out.
If you store cut fruits for a longer period, try to check once in a while. If there’s part of the fruit that starts to spoil, quickly discard it before contaminating other fruits.
3. Freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice
Lemon juice also comes handy for whenever you need it for a drink or recipe. Always keep the juice in a sealed container or jar and store in the fridge.
4. Store-bought lime or lemon juice
Unopened bottles of lime or lemon juice are usually shelf-stable and can be kept in a dry, cool area, away from direct sunlight, such as your countertop or kitchen pantry. Preservatives agents such as sodium benzoate or potassium metabisulfites are added to prolong the shelf life.
However, if you buy fresh juice that you pick up at a refrigerated shelf, keep it in the fridge as soon as you’re home.
After opening, always keep it refrigerated and make sure the bottle is tightly sealed.
Can You Freeze Limes and Lemons?
Yes, freezing fresh produce is quite practical to prolong its shelf life.
Wash and dry the fruits thoroughly, and simply cut them in quarters or in slices. Once frozen, transfer the fruits into a freezer bag. These frozen fruits are great for a drink or infused water.
Some people also prefer to freeze the juices instead of the fruits. To do this, simply squeeze the fruits and pour the juice into ice cubes trays.
Once frozen, transfer the juice into a resealable freezer bag. Whenever you need it for marinade or dressing, simply take one or two cubes, and you’re good to go.
How Long Do Limes and Lemons Last?
Limes and lemons can last longer than you expected if stored properly. Good quality fruit is always a good starting point. Thus, both fruit quality and proper storage significantly determine the fruits’ shelf life.
Whole limes or lemons stay fresh up to a week when stored in the pantry. The shelf life is prolonged for up to 2 – 3 weeks when stored in the fridge. If you bag them in a vacuum bag, these fruits can last even longer for up to 3 – 6 months.
Cut limes or zested lemons should be finished within 3 – 4 days since cut fruits deteriorate much faster than whole fruits.
Freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice can retain its freshness up to 2 – 3 days in the fridge. This life span extends up to 3 – 4 months when properly frozen. If you see any spoilage signs before this period, simply throw it out for safety reasons.
Commercially prepared lime or lemon juice should be best consumed prior to the “best before” or “best by” date stamped on the label. Unopened bottles should be fine up to 12 – 18 months, while remaining products should be finished within 2 months after opening.
How to Tell if Limes and Lemons are Bad
Although both limes and lemons are high in acid content, which is known as a natural preservative, they will go bad eventually.
Fresh lime and lemons are firm, juicy, and smell fresh. After some time, the fruits will lose their flavor and moisture. Unless no spoilages signs are seen such as visible molds, rotten parts, discoloration, or extremely off smell, it should be fine to consume.
Similar to lime and lemon juice, if you notice a change in appearance, juice does not smell like fresh citrus juice, and the taste becomes extremely acidic or unpleasant, it is also time to discard it.
When it comes to freshly squeezed juice, if it has sat in the fridge for too long, it is better to discard the juice for safety reasons.
Yes, if the package is not damaged and you don’t see any spoilage signs, it is generally safe for consumption. You may need to thoroughly inspect the product to avoid risking your health.
When stored in the fridge, it can stay fresh for up to 3 days. However, lemon water can taste slightly bitter after a while. If you use lime, it lasts even shorter since the rind of limes is naturally more bitter than lemon.
Despite the high content of acid, freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice should not be left at room temperature for too long. Bacteria can grow faster than you can imagine at room temperature and may render the juice unsafe for consumption.
If you have left freshly squeezed lemon juice more than a day outside the fridge, it might have been spoiled. So, quickly throw it out and better safe than sorry.
Limes and lemons are considered staples in many households. These citrus fruits are versatile and used for a variety of purposes.
Just like any other fresh produce, they will go bad after a while. There are different ways to preserve and extend fresh limes and lemons. Choose which one that suits your needs and enjoy while they’re still freshest.
Shop wisely and store the products properly, it will not only extend the shelf life but also a simple way to minimize food waste and to save money!
Up Next: Best substitutes for lemon juice
*Photo by Wirestock/depositphotos