What’s the Difference: Green Lemon Vs. Lime

There is a big difference between these two fruits.
lemon and lime

No matter what you may be led to believe, this is a fact: A green lemon is not a lime

In fact, these two citrus fruits may look the same but it’s not the same kind of fruit in two different colors. In short, a lime is not simply a lemon that is still unripe and still green. A lemon’s scientific name is “Citrus xlimon” while a lime’s scientific name is “Citrus ×latifolia”. This means that while both are under the same plant family, it’s not the same fruit. 

While both are juicy citrus fruits that make delicious dishes and even more refreshing beverages during hot days, they’ve got some differences.

Learn more about the differences between green lemons and limes: 

1 A lemon turns green to yellow. A lime can also turn green to yellow. 

The belief that a green lemon is basically a lime is born from the fact that the lemon starts off as green. Since lemons that are picked still underripe commonly remain green. These however can still ripen when left on the tree and when this happens, the green color of its rind will change from green to yellow. What basically happens is the chlorophyll that makes the rind green is replaced with anthocyanin which is yellow in color. Think of the calamansi and how it too changes from the vibrant green to the yellow-orange when it ripens. 

A lime meanwhile will also turn yellow when it ripens on the tree. However, both limes and lemons need to stay on the tree to ripen, unlike other fruits. The limes are picked from the trees still green since the hard green rind is easier to transport than its more juicy and more tender ripened yellow lime. 

green and yellow lemons ina  pile
A lime is not just a lemon that is still green.
Photo by Shutterstock

2 A lemon is sour-sweet but limes are tart-bitter to the taste. 

If you have ever tasted lemon juice on its own, you know about the sourness but there’s a distinct sweetness to the lemon taste as well. However, if you taste lime juice, it’s sour too but there is also an underlying bitterness to the sourness as well. Limes are generally more acidic than lemons which is why the calamansi has a sharper, acid taste than lemons and thus considered closer to the lime than the lemon. 

3 A lemon has a fresh and bright aroma but lime has a sharper freshness to its citrus scent. 

Another difference is the aroma of the zest and fruit itself. The lemon has a delicious citrus smell but it also has a lovely fresh and bright scent. The lime is similar in fragrance but it is fresher and sharper than the lemon. The freshness of the fragrance of the lime and the brightness of the lemon can be attributed to the different kinds of zest the two citrus fruits have. 


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