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A black lime is a lime that has been inserted in salt water, boiled and then sun-dried. The process turns the citrus fruit a dark color that can vary from black to gray or brown. The drying process can take a few weeks to complete and shrinks the limes significantly, giving them a hollow appearance. These limes are used in Middle Eastern cooking, giving a variety of dishes a sour and tangy taste. Sometimes a black lime is mistakenly called a black lemon, and other common names include lumi, loomi, Noomi Basra, Omani, Oman lemons and Amani.
The dried limes usually measures between 1 inch and 1.5 inches (2.54 to 3.81 cm). Their outer skin is marked by dark-colored vertical stripes, and the fruit inside turns from green into a mushy texture that is shiny and black. The best flavor is often found in brown or tan dried limes, while the black ones have a more intense flavor. Proper storage requires protecting the limes from humidity to prevent the development of mold. Black limes should be discarded if mold develops, but with proper storage they have been known to last for two years in a pantry.
A black lime can be used to spice up recipes in either ground form or whole. The appearance of a whole one does not give any indication of the unique flavor or pleasant citrus scent inside. Instead it looks shriveled and unappetizing, a bit like a small, deformed walnut. Middle Eastern recipes that include black lime are often lentil- or meat-based, and some recipes use these limes to spice up certain rice, fish, and chicken dishes. The dried lime, when crushed, is also used to make a hot tea, which some modern cooks have adapted to make a cold version for a tasty summer treat.
Dried and blackened limes originated in Oman. They are a popular ingredient in some Indian recipes and especially in dishes made in Iraq and Iran. The most flavor is present in whole black limes, which lose a bit of their pungency in powdered form. Some people like to use slices of black lime as a garnish.