As a home chef, learning how to know if a lime is bad can help to save you from accidentally sabotaging your next meal.
When a lime goes sour, the flavor can turn from zesty to off-putting in just days.
It isn’t always easy to tell when a lime has gone off, especially in the earliest stages of spoilage.
Here, you’ll learn the best ways to identify sour limes to avoid over-acidifying your meal.
We’ll also cover how to keep limes fresh for longer and what to do with them once they begin to spoil.
Knowing how to tell a bad lime from a ripe one can save your next meal from disaster. The best way to see whether a lime has gone sour is by looking at color, texture, and scent.
How Long Do Limes Last?
Fresh limes last longest when stored in the fridge. It’s best to keep them in a humidity-controlled crisper drawer at or below 40℉.
Limes can keep for up to a month when stored properly in the refrigerator.
Limes need plenty of airflows to ripen properly, but many don’t get it due to constructive packaging.
When you store your limes in the fridge, try to give them plenty of space and leave the stems falling upwards to help promote healthy airflow.
Tip: If you buy bulk limes from the grocery store, always remove them from their packaging when putting them away.
How to Know if a Lime Is Bad?
If you know how to tell if lime is bad, you can avoid adding any spoiled fruit to your favorite dishes.
One of the best ways to spot a sour lime is by giving it a multi-point visual inspection.
One of the most surefire ways of spotting a bad lime is by color. A lime’s bright green skin will oxidize and brown as it ages.
Limes will also turn brown due to improper storage conditions. They are particularly vulnerable at warmer temperatures.
If you notice your lime’s bright green skin turning a darker shade of evergreen, it could be due to tight storage conditions in your vegetable crisper.
Limes need plenty of breathing room, and overcrowded storage will prevent proper ripening. In these conditions, limes will quickly acidify and spoil.
Even when a lime looks perfect on the outside, it may be bad on the inside.
Limes should have bright green flesh that matches their skin, but it will turn brown if the fruit gets picked before it’s ready.
Limes with a brown tint to their interior will likely taste acidic and spoil quickly.
The texture of limes also provides important clues as to their ripeness. A rock-hard lime will be unripe and not ready to use yet. A ripe lime, on the other hand, should have some spring to the surface.
If you squeeze lime and notice it feels squishy or mushy, it is no longer ripe.
A spoiled lime will often have mushy, pulpy flesh that is far more acidic than a ripe lime.
In some cases, bad limes will begin to dry out and harden. In this case, the skin will feel leathery, but the inside will still feel softer than it should.
Any limes with a slick or slimy surface are also likely spoiled. You should take care with these limes, as their coat might contain potentially harmful bacteria.
It’s best to discard slimy limes and clean any surfaces they may have touched to avoid food poisoning.
Fresh, ripe limes should have a pleasant citrus smell. A spoiled lime, on the other hand, will have sour notes to its scent.
If you notice a batch of limes smelling more strongly than usual, it could be an early warning sign that they’ll spoil soon.
Tip: Spoiled limes will also taste much more acidic than fresh limes. When in doubt, you can perform a small taste test before using lime to make sure it’s still good.
What Happens If I Eat a Bad Lime?
If you eat a bad lime, you are unlikely to experience many adverse side effects.
Food poisoning from limes is rare, as most germs and bacteria can’t tolerate high acidity.
Spoiled limes can taste extremely acidic, so those with a sensitive stomach may experience digestive upset.
In some cases, eating large amounts of sour lime could lead to nausea or even vomiting.
What to Do With Bad Limes
If you notice your limes starting to spoil, don’t throw them in the garbage.
There are plenty of ways you can reuse and recycle old limes to get your money’s worth out of the batch.
Freeze Lime Wedges
If your limes are on the cusp of going bad, try freezing them. Frozen limes can keep for several months in the freezer when stored properly.
Before freezing limes, it’s a good idea to cut them into wedges. That way, you can instantly throw a slice in your drink or defrost it quickly to use in a meal.
Place the wedges in an airtight container or freezer bag to keep them fresh.
Juice Your Limes
Limes teetering on the edge of spoiling may still be good to juice. Lime juice stores for much longer than the fruit itself, even in the fridge.
If your lime is too dry or too tough to juice, you can soften it. Add it to boiling water for a minute or two to rehydrate skin and flesh.
Around half a minute in the microwave will also make old limes easier to juice.
Tip: You can also freeze lime juice in ice cube trays to keep it fresh even longer.
Clean Your Garbage Disposal
If you want to refresh your garbage disposal between deep scrubbings, you can throw some old lime slices down there to give the blades a quick clean.
A little bit of citric acid can help clear out your disposal and kill unwanted bacteria on contact.
It will also leave your sink smelling bright and fresh for hours to days afterward.
Clean Your Microwave
Like your garbage disposal, old lime can also help you to keep your microwave smelling fresh between more rigorous cleaning sessions.
Place lime slices and around one cup of water in a microwave-safe container, then cook on high for two to four minutes.
When you reopen the microwave, the interior should be coated in moisture. Wipe it down with a clean, damp cloth and allow it to air dry for a few hours.
Doing this will clean your microwave and help to eliminate persistent smells.
Set Up Pest Control
The scent of citrus repels pests such as ants and roaches. Oils in fruits such as lemons and limes can actually kill certain insects, making citrus an effective pest control solution.
You can puree old limes and mix them with water to create a toxic solution for pests. Better yet, it’s pleasant for us and safe for small children.
However, keep in mind that ingesting lime can be toxic for cats, dogs, and other pets.
Tip: You can make potpourri with dried lime that will both freshen up the room and deter hungry pests.
It’s a good idea to know how to know if a lime is bad to avoid accidentally ruining your favorite dishes.
Lime can add a delicious citrus twist to any meal or cocktail, not to mention plenty of vitamins and minerals.
When a lime goes bad, though, that tasty tang can turn into an unpleasant acidity.
Properly storing limes can extend their shelf life, saving you money and helping you to avoid using bad batches. If you do notice signs of spoilage, you can still make good use of your limes.
You can juice limes, freeze them, or even include them in your cleaning regimen.