The sweet lemon (scientific name Citrus limetta) is a variety of citrus native to some areas of Southeast and South Asia that is cultivated today around the Mediterranean Sea. Sweet lemon is also known as the sweet lime or the sweet limetta.
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The plant has other names along its extensive range. Iranians name it Limu Shirin while in North India it is known as mousambi, mosambi, or musambi. The French name it bergamot but it is distinct from the true bergamot orange (scientific name Citrus bergamia).
The sweet lemon is a tree that doesn't reach a height of more than 8 m. It has a smooth bark with a color between brown and grey, while its irregular branches are covered with many thorns that can even be 7.5 cm long. The petioles have a length between 9 and 29 mm, with small but visible wings. The compound leaves consist of acuminate leaflets with a length of 5 to 17 cm and a width of 2.8 to 8 cm. The white flowers have a diameter of 2 or 3 cm. The oval fruits are green in their youth, turning yellow as they ripe. The white pith has a thickness of about 5 mm, while the pulp remains green. The sweet lemon looks more like a green orange, despite its name.
The plant is well adapted to most areas with a tropical or sub-tropical climate. Sweet lemon needs between 5 and 7 years until it starts producing fruits but the best yield is only reached after 10 or even 20 years. Propagation can be done using the seeds.
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The taste of the fruit is sweet, retaining the flavour of a lime without its strong acidity, just like the name implies. It only remains sweet for a very short time and should be consumed quickly. In contact with air, the taste changes very fast and just a few minutes are needed until it becomes bitter and unpleasant. Since it is not as acid as other citrus fruits, the flavour is also less powerful and resembles pomelo or limeade.
Since the fruit is very rich in vitamins, it has many medical uses. The vitamins make it particularly potent against cold or flu and it is used for that purpose in Iran. Most vitamins are actually located in the skin of the fruit, rather than its pulp. To take full advantage of the vitamin content, the peel should also be consumed or the entire fruit should be juiced.
All citrus fruits are a major source of vitamin C and the sweet lemon is no exception, with a portion of 100 g having an impressive content of 50 mg. This makes it very effective against cold, in particular in Iran. It is also very popular in the traditional medicine of Mexico, especially because of its antihypertensive properties.
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The sweet lemon is one of the most popular types of citrus on the Asian continent. Most of the production is in Asia and the fruit is used in both the medicine and the cuisine of the area. The pulp and the juice of sweet lemon are considered not only to have curative properties but are also used as a cosmetic for the skin. In Asia, the juice is extremely popular during the summer in tropical areas, as a refreshing drink that provides protection from sunstroke effects.
Besides being very tasty, the sweet lemon provides important health benefits and is able to balance the levels of cholesterol. It can improve human health without any known side effects. It is a pleasant fruit to eat raw because of its mild taste, even when compared to an orange. In its native area, the sweet lemon is readily available during the summer and also between the months of November and March. Citrus limetta is easy to find in Asia and popular for its health benefits, also being able to refresh the body during the hot summers in the area. It is known to balance cholesterol, reduce the amount of body fat and kill pain.
The main bioactive compound found in sweet lemons is vitamin C, which can reduce fevers and balance body temperature in general. In addition, the fruit is rich in flavonoids. These have antibiotic and antioxidant properties and can eliminate toxins from the body. Flavonoids in sweet lemon can also cure oral and peptic ulcers and even prevent certain types of cancer.
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A popular remedy is to prepare the fruit by mixing it with hot water and honey. This drink is effective against dry throats and can relive itching, fight local infections and cure tonsillitis. The sweet lemon fruit is rich in flavonoids and limonoids, which have an antiseptic effect against a wide range of pathogens and can also limit the spread of cancer.
Like all citrus fruits, the sweet lemon is very rich in vitamin C, which protects against scurvy. This disease is caused by a poor diet that doesn't provide enough vitamin C to the body and can lead to gum bleeding.
The juice can also prevent a deficiency of calcium. This is especially important for pregnant women and has important benefits for the health of the fetus and its later growth. The sweet lemon juice is also known for its positive effects on asthma, while the whole fruit can relieve constipation if consumed in larger amounts.
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Sweet lemon provides massive amounts of vitamins and minerals, as well as water. This is very important in tropical areas, where the fruit is an important remedy against sunstrokes and dehydration during hot summers. Consuming the fruit also has various other beneficial effects. Sweet lemon can improve blood circulation, increase male fertility, regulate the appetite and eliminate various harmful toxins from the body.
The sweet lemon is the most common citrus fruit in India and the neighbouring countries of Bangladesh and Pakistan. It is almost always consumed as a juice, which is found freshly prepared in numerous roadside stalls in the area. It is commonly sold with a salty chat masala or kala namak, although the vendor can be told to serve the juice alone.
Sweet lemons are very rich in vitamin A and preserve the same content even if the fruits are frozen, peeled or turned into concentrated juice. A portion of 100 g of fruit contains 20 IU (international units) of vitamin A. The concentration is even higher in the peel, up to 50 IU of vitamin A, but it is usually discarded. However, consuming the peel of a fruit along with its juice provides about 10 percent of the daily required amount of vitamin A of a female adult.
The content of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) of the fruit is very high. One whole fruit contains about 53 mg of vitamin C, while the juice provides about 46 mg of this essential compound. The amount drops even more in concentrated juice, to 30 mg of vitamin C. The highest amount is found in the peel, which can provide 129 mg.
The sweet lemon is also rich in vitamin B3, also named niacin. The content of vitamin B3 is around 0.1 mg, in both the fresh fruit and its juice. If you can eat the peel, you will get 0.4 mg of vitamin B3. The total amount found in the fruit is 0.5 mg of vitamin B3, if you consume or juice all of it. However, this is no more than 3 percent of an adult's daily requirement, for both males and females.
The fruit is good in the diet of infants because it provides the entire daily recommended amount of vitamin B1 (or thiamine), which is around 0.04 mg up to the age of 3. It provides enough vitamin B1 for adults as well, if the peel is also consumed. The sweet lemon peel can provide 0.06 mg of this vitamin, while the juice contributes another 0.03 mg. This is enough for an adult female's needs and around 83 percent of a male's daily requirement.