Limes have a distinctive sweetness that tempers their tartness, with a fragrant, almost floral zest. The most common variety sold in Europe and North America is the dark green Persian lime that grows in tropical zones, but key limes, the stars of Florida’s famous pies, are much smaller and more delicate.

Limes’ sour, slightly bitter juice holds up well in savory dishes such as ceviche, desserts such as lime curd bars, and in countless drinks and cocktails.

Limes reach their peak from late summer to late autumn. Buy smooth, glossy limes with a dark green rind that are plump and heavy for their size. Avoid any with dull skin or soft spots.

Store limes at room temperature for 3 to 5 days or in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. Lime juice can also be frozen for up to 6 months.

Juice limes as you would lemons: bring the fruit to room temperature and then roll firmly against a hard, flat surface. They tend to give less juice than lemons. Use a reamer to extract as much juice as possible and strain out any seeds before using. A rasp grater is essential for obtaining lime zest without any bitter pith, as their rind is very thin.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Companion: The A to Z Guide to Everyday Cooking, Equipment and Ingredients (Time-Life Books, 2000)