A multitude of factors have converged to contribute to the drastic lime shortage in the United States this month. Thanks to citrus blight, erratic weather, and inner-state narco politics in Mexico, the price of the little green citrus fruits has skyrocketed, prompting the public to reconsider the ubiquity of an everyday commodity. What is a bowl of pho, a gin and tonic, or a taco without a squeeze of lime?
“We’re using the yellow ones,” admits at cook at Williamsburg stalwart, Tacos Santana (301 Keap Street, Brooklyn, 718-388-8761). Though the Spanish language only differentiates the fruit by color (they’re both considered limons, in Spanish — limon verde for lime, limon amarillo for lemon), flavor is a different story; the bright, kick of lime juice is the expected accompaniment to the taco-experience. As bars shift their focus away from juice-heavy drinks, restaurants ration the lime wedges, and kitchens purchase from concentrate, taquerias have fewer options for substitutions.
And the hardest hit may be the small-scale, immigrant-owned-and-operated taquerias, the bodegas-with-a-griddle-in-back, which are finding it hard to absorb the increase without higher priced menu items or alcohol to defray the cost. A lemon is not fungible for a lime, but at Reyes Deli & Grocery (532 Fourth Avenue, 718-369-3211) in South Slope, as at Tacos Santana and many of the city’s modest taquerias, that’s what comes on the side of a cecina taco.
Thankfully, summer lime season is just a couple of months away, and then a new crop will quench the lime-stricken masses. Support your local taqueria and drink grapefruit margaritas until then.
Scarlett Lindeman is a Brooklyn-based writer, covering the city’s best taquerias, fondas, and cantinas. She writes the ¡Oye! Comida column for Fork in the Road.