Things to do with Key limes

Willy gave me my Key lime tree for Valentine’s long time ago, when it was a little sapling about one year old.  The first year it gave me 2-3 limes, the next year a few more. Now it is producing heavily and has done so continuously for months. I figure it must be at least 8 years old and fully mature. We have transplanted it into bigger and bigger pots over the years, and this summer we did it again, moving it into a large laundry hamper we bought at Big Lots for only $6. It has nifty handles so that when it comes time to bring it in for winter, Will and I can do it together easily. Plus, it looks pretty!

My beautiful and productive Key lime tree.

I feed it about once a month – citrus are heavy feeders- with Hasta Gro. It is still blooming, has lots of tiny fruit setting, and is dropping mature limes faster than I can use them. They are the best limes I have ever had, juicy and flavorful; they have so much essential oils that the rind stains my hands when I squeeze them and they scent the entire kitchen. I made a couple lime tarts two weeks ago and it took us until now to finish them, so I have thinking about things to do with them other than just desserts. My mom makes a dish of baked chicken legs with lime that I like a lot, but since she was not home when I called for the recipe, I winged it. Here’s what I did:

Key lime chicken

Key lime chicken, roasted fingerling potatoes, braised garden radishes.

8 chicken legs
1/4 cup olive oil
2-3 mashed cloves of garlic
Juice of 4 key limes
salt and pepper
Fresh thyme sprigs

Mix all ingredients well to make a marinade and pour over chicken legs in a Pyrex baking dish. Let stand for about 30 minutes or while your oven heats to 350.  Bake until legs are done throughout and the skin has browned nicely, about 40 minutes. I served them with roasted fingerling potatoes and braised radishes and radish greens from the garden. They turned out delicious!

OK, I am making desserts too. Citrus desserts are probably my favorite. I looked up various recipes and combining elements from a few I came up with this:

Key lime cheesecake bars

1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch kosher salt
4 large eggs
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup key lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons lime zest
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease the bottom of a 9×13-inch cake pan. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy in electric mixer, add flour and salt and combine until dough forms. Do not over mix. Press the dough evenly into baking pan and bake for about 20 minutes or until lightly brown.

While the crust is baking beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the condensed milk, eggs, lime zest and juice and beat for 2-3 minutes or until light. Add the flour and salt and beat until just mixed. Pour the filling over the hot crust and spread out evenly. Bake until just set, about 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for at least an hour and then cut into bars. Garnish with lime zest and lime slices.

I prefer this shortbread-like crust to the ones made with Graham crackers. It is subtle, lets the key lime shine, and the texture is great. The filling is wonderfully limey. I bet this would be great with Meyer lemons, and  I will even experiment with tangerines/clementines if my neighbor Paul gives me some from his tree this winter.

I still have lots more limes, so if you have a favorite recipe please share!

Posted in Gardening, Recipes and tagged , , .


  1. I always end up with a wealth of Meyer lemons after Thanksgiving and we make limoncello with the rinds (minus the pith), so…Lime-oncello maybe? Then freeze the juice in 1-cup portions for making lemonade all year.
    Those radishes with greens look good!

  2. I am so envious of your lime tree & abundant fruit. The dishes you made look very tasty. It just so happens that we are headed to the Florida Keys and I will be on the look-out for a good Key lime pie recipe, though I am sure you have seen many. When we were in The Keys last year, I noticed that there are many versions & the limes in the stores are from Mexico via Edinburgh, TX. What about marmalade made with limes instead of oranges?

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