United Nations


Our Daily Correspondent


Giovanna Garzoni, Still Life with Bowl of Citrons, late 1640s.

We are currently in the midst of what will almost certainly not be referred to as the Great Lime Shortage of 2014. Following the decimation of the domestic lime crop in the 1990s, the United States is now largely dependent on foreign imports. And this year has provided a perfect storm of difficulties for growers. Quoth the New York Post,

A huge shortage is the result of a nasty cocktail of conditions in Mexico, where 97 percent of US limes are grown. Heavy rains knocked the blossoms off many trees, reducing yield. A bacteria that’s long been ravaging citrus trees in Mexico didn’t help either, but the real trouble came when criminals and drug cartels started looting the groves and hijacking delivery trucks.

A case of limes used to cost as little as $30; prices have shot up to as high as $200. And the limes are smaller—golf-ball-size fruit that doesn’t produce much juice.

The reaction, needless to say, is panic. People are looting and pillaging and smuggling. There is a black market; there is inflation. Slices of lime are being doled out or husbanded or hoarded like precious medicines in an epidemic. The resourceful are substituting cut versions of the juice, or creating new recipes. In the grand tradition of such things, the veneer of civilization has quickly eroded, and the lime-deprived populace is left clamoring, bestial, ruthless.

Of course, there is always lemon. Lemons are cheap and plentiful. If you’re concerned about scurvy, you ought to know that the lemon contains four times the vitamin C of its green cousin. It’s also less likely to leave a bartender’s skin mottled with phytophotodermatitis.

Time was, presumably, even the most pampered city dweller had a certain understanding that the earth giveth and taketh away; that what we eat—and plenty of livelihoods—are dependent on the vagaries of weather and blight. But, in the words of Time, even after the Florida lime groves were devastated by Hurricane Andrew, “people still wanted their margaritas and ceviche.”

And just in case the great graduate student in the sky doesn’t have quite enough material to work with, I leave you with this:

When asked if she’d try a lemon margarita, Bernadette, a 27-year-old from Jersey City, grimaced while drinking at Burning Waters on Thursday.

“I think I would throw the lemon wedge at them. What’s the matter with you? It’s not the same,” says Bernadette, who declined to give her last name because she didn’t want her United Nations colleagues privy to her drinking habits.