Bearss lime overview:
- This is a vigorous tree which produces lots of large juicing limes.
Bearss Lime Fruit:
Bearss lime fruit appearance:
- When ripe the fruit is dark green to pale green, depending on when you pick (see below discussion).
- With increased ripening, small patches of yellow will appear as well as other changes (see below discussion).
- The Bearss lime fruit is usually slightly smaller or similar in size to a standard lemon.
- The skin is rather smooth and thin.
- The flesh of the fruit is tightly clinging to the flesh and the pulp is light greenish-yellow when ripe.
- The Bearss lime has a characteristic thin nipple on the blossom end of the fruit which is the leftover end of the flowers stigma.
Bearss lime fruit taste:
- This is a wonderful acid lime with a fragrant somewhat spicy aroma. The flavor is less intense/acid than the Mexican lime/Key lime.
- The Bearss lime is marketed as a seedless lime, however, I do find a few seeds in the fruit about half of the time.
- The main Bearss Lime crop for me is from October to December.
- However, this tree is a heavy producer for me and there seem to be fruit on it all year long.
- Yesterday (8/1/15) I started picking another crop from my 4yo Bearss Lime tree. Each crop is bigger than the last. This last crop was even too large for a 5 gallon bucket… and there is still more fruit on the tree! (see video below).
- The fact that Bearss limes are green when unripe and also green when ripe is a bit of an obstacle to harvesting success. To further complicate things, there seems to be a narrow time window for optimal ripeness.
- Overall, if you pick the fruit too early there will be little juice and the fruit will not have the distinct lime flavor that you are looking for.
- On the other hand, if you pick the fruit later, it may become a sweeter but in doing so may also not have that desired lime flavor.
- Of course if you are really late to harvest then the end of the fruit may turn soft and brown at the end (stylar-end-breakdown) and if this happens the fruit will taste rotten. Just throw these damaged fruit away and pick earlier next time.
- There is a phenomenon known as stylar-end-breakdown, or stylar-end-rot.
- This results in a round tan/brown, soft area at the apex of the fruit.
- I have personally noticed that this stylar-end-breakdown only happens to over ripe fruit that has turned yellow and left hanging on the tree. I have asked around and apparently this happens to all limes that are left to ripen too long on the tree (however, I have never seen it happen to Mexican lime/Key lime).
- Local experts have told me that this lime stylar-end-breakdown is basically the fruit rotting on the tree and it should not happen to the green fruit.
- I have also read elsewhere that this stylar-end-rot disease is made worse with summer heat and can happen to fruit left out in field boxes in commercial picking. Some have also suggested that this process is preferentially induced in larger fruits, but this has not been my experience.
When to pick Bearss limes?
- So how do you know when to pick then?
- To avoid the risk of the stylar-end-breakdown problem and to cater to customer expectations, the fruit is usually dark green when picked for commercial maturity (in stores).
- However, for the home grower you have the advantage of picking at the absolute best time, which is a little later than commercial pickers. I wait till the dark green of the young fruit starts to lighten to a little bit. You might also see a splash of pale green in areas of the fruit skin at this stage as well. This is the optimal time for flavor and juice for me. I try to pick before the fruit starts to turn yellow.
- With a bit more time, you might get some yellow on the skin surrounded by green and at this point I am pushing the envelope but the fruit is still very good.
- Some people actually like to wait until the fruit is completely yellow. However, others insist that the Bearss lime tastes “off” when it is completely yellow.
- Another indicator or ripeness is the feel: unripe fruit will feel very solid when squeezed and a ripe Bearss lime will give a bit when squeezed.
Bearss Lime Tree Care:
Bearss lime tree fertilization:
- Large infrequent applications of fertilizer 2x a year can result in rapid growth and bark splitting. This can expose the plant to disease and in some cases the extreme splitting by itself can result in trunk girdling and death of a tree. To avoid this spread the fertilization application into at least 4 separate applications. I personally try to fertilize with a mix of slow release and regular granulated fertilizer from spring to summer.
- As always, it is important to water-in the granulated fertilizer because the drip line won’t do it. If you skip this point then you could get into some major problems down the line. Without watering-in that granulated fertilizer, it will sit there through the dry summer doing nothing. Then, when the winter rains come, that whole season of fertilizer will be soaked into the root zone in one large dose at the exact wrong time and wrong concentration.
Bearss lime growing temperature:
- In general, limes are more cold sensitive that most other citrus.
- Because lime trees grow all year-around they are more susceptible to cold damage. This is because young leaves are especially susceptible to the cold. Therefore, time my fertilization to discourage cold weather growth.
- The good news is that the Bearss lime is said to be hardier than the Mexican lime/Key lime.
- Mine will tolerate an occasional light frost. However, a deep freeze will kill any citrus.
- Planting close to a South facing wall may help a bit with winter temperatures, but that same South facing wall may also bake the tree in the summer.
- For more information about the lowest temperatures that you can expect in your area, check out my article “Climate Zones: What can I grow in my yard?”
Bearss lime tree soil:
- I plant in a large hole with a rich soil mixture of native soil and grow mulch.
- This tree must have well draining soil and will not tolerate standing in water.
- See my previous article on the best planting method.
- This evergreen tree has moderately dense foliage with somewhat drooping branches.
- With the cultivation formula that I have outlined, I have found the Bearss lime to be very fast grower.
- It can grow up to 20 feet tall but can be easily kept to half that height with pruning.
- The branches have a few small thorns.
- Because of their year-around growth, lime trees demand more fertilization and irrigation than other Citrus species. I don’t fertilize in the fall or winter because I don’t want to encourage young leaf growth when it is cold as the young leaves are the most cold sensitive.
- In the summer, I water 2-3 times a week with a drip line around the root zone.
- Must be well draining soil but the soil also cannot be allowed to completely dry out.
- Mulching helps retain moisture and help to stabilize the soil temperature.
Bearss lime tree propagation:
- The big picture here is don’t bother growing from seed.
- The seeds are largely monoembryonic; and seedlings are exceedingly variable. A study of the Tahiti lime showed that only 10% of seedlings produced fruit with a reasonable similarity to the parent.
- The best bet is to by a grafted tree, or perhaps try some grafting yourself.
- Mostly by honey bees
Bearss lime tree pests:
- I have personally encountered two main pests (Citrus leaf miner and scale).
- Leaf Miner is basically unavoidable now in California. It can do a lot of damage, however, I have a great formula for dealing with leaf miner and have written about it previously (see link).
- Scale seems to be a problem on a lot of the plants around Southern California… and the rest of the world for that matter. However, tangle foot will keep the ants out of your tree that protect and move around the scale. Once you remove the ants from the equation with tangle foot, then your oil sprays and the natural predators will keep those sap suckers at bay.
- Other reported pests include:
- The citrus red mite (purple mite, red spider, spider mite), and the broad mite.
- I have also seen reports that Red alga is a major problem, causing bark splitting and dieback of branches. It can be prevented by regular and thorough spraying with copper or other suitable fungicides.
- The tree is also subject to several viruses including crinkly leaf, psorosis, tatterleaf , tristeza, exocortis and xyloporosis.
- The tree is moderately susceptible to scab and greasy spot.
- Fortunately the Bearss Lime tree is reported to be immune to withertip.
- For further reading, here is a decent 6 page academic publication I found on Citrus disease and Management
Bearss Lime Use:
Bearss lime food use:
- Bearss limes can make awesome homemade limeade or lime soda; i’ll work on writing up a recipe in my next post.
- 1/19/14 update: I just wrote a new post. My limeade recipe is now available.
- Basically, you can use the Bearss lime for the same things that you would use a Mexican Lime/Key Lime for.
- With normal refrigeration, fresh fruits may remain good for 6 to 8 weeks.
Other Bearss lime use:
- I have found that lime juice (and lemon juice) is effective in removing rust stains from carpets. I would suggest that you first test an inconspicuous corner of the carpet first to make sure the lime juice wont damage the carpet.
- Others have put the peals of limes into their garbage disposal to “freshen up” the smell.
- Others have reported that lime juice will dissolve calcium deposits on teakettles and faucets if left to soak overnight.
- For some people, skin exposure to the oil in the peel of limes or the sap of the tree can causes dermatitis.
- This dermatitis can be exasperated with sun exposure resulting in discolored itchy brown or red skin that can sometimes lead to blistering.
- However, I don’t know how common this reaction is… and it is interesting to note that the lime peel oil is commonly used in cooking.
Bearss Lime Miscellaneous:
Brief history of the Bearss lime:
- The Bearss Lime was introduced as a new variety of Tahiti lime in the early golden days of California citrus growing.
- This lime got its name because it originated in the grove of T.J. Bearss at Porterville, California, in 1895.
- However, later comparative studies led to the decision that the ‘Bearss’ did not differ sufficiently from the typical Tahiti lime to be maintained as a distinct cultivar.
- Interestingly, the idea didn’t seem to catch on (at least in my experience) because I see a whole of seedless limes labeled as Bearss.
AKA (Also Known As):
- Tahiti lime, Persian lime, limoo