A language barrier


As usual in the past years we have spent our winter holiday at the South Coast of Mombasa (Kenya) in 2002 again. After a non-stop flight from Munich we arrived in Mombasa in the early morning of January 25. A shuttle bus drove us from the city of Mombasa to the Leisure Lodge Resort Hotel and Golf Club, where we were expected already. Several staff members whom we knew from our previous visits welcomed us warmly, but the ownership and management had changed since our last visit in September 2001. A considerable number of new personnel had been brought into service from other parts of Kenya. However in the past, most of the middle and junior staff members were recruited from Coastal tribes like: Giriama, Ndigo (of South) or Bajun (of North). Also we noticed at the Resort entrance a new notice informing guests that it is prohibited to bring any food or beverage into the Resort compound.


We got the same room on the first floor in one of several hotel blocks as in the past visits. From the balcony there is a splendid view of the white sandy beach below, the lagoon, and the reef some 500m away, after which it stretches to the wide Indian Ocean. A basket full of fresh fruit, a vase with frangipani and bougainvillea flowers, and a bottle of red wine waited on our room table. The room controller arrived soon afterwards and I asked her if she could take the bottle of red wine and change it for some fresh limes. We normally drink the locally bottled water into which Ljiljana adds freshly pressed lime juice - say one piece of lime per liter of water.


We have booked a half-board accommodation that suited us well as we could stay at the beach from breakfast until 5 o'clock tea time. On the beach there were two newly opened bars where one can order drinks and light meals at lunchtimes. So we visited the one closer to our long chairs under a canopy and ordered pizzas, together with bottled mineral water (no gas!) and two pieces of lime cut into halves. Pizzas and water arrived, but we got lemons instead of limes. We complained to the head waiter, who explained that we should have asked for "limao" if we wanted lime instead of lemon. This sounded rather strange to me as "limao" in Portuguese means 'lemon'.


In the late afternoon we returned to our room but the substitute for the bottle of red wine had not arrived yet.  During dinner, we ordered a bottle of water with limes cut in halves, but again we got lemon slices instead. The new waiters were somehow mystified, as none of them could understand our complaint. The head waiter we knew from previous visits told us that the kitchen and bars don't have limes as the new F&B-manager wouldn't buy them. On earlier visits we got any number of limes, either from the stores or from some staff members' gardens - clean fruit without any pesticide's treatment. By Jove, why couldn't we get the limes that grow in abundance along the coast here?


NDIMU alias LIME (Citrus aurantiifolia)

Next morning I complained at the guests' relation desk, asking when we would get the lime fruit for the returned bottle of red wine. Later on the beach Ljiljana saw a woman carrying baskets with some fresh bananas, lemons, papayas, etc. She asked if she could bring a few "limao" later the same afternoon. In fact, the woman brought some kind of green looking fruit with rough thick skin, which we guessed to be more a wild lemon or something unknown. Ljiljana took a dozen of them, feeling that she was let down with "limao" for sure. She cut the fruit's thick skin, more a buffalo hide than lime skin, and she could hardly squeeze any drops out of it. So "limao" is certainly not "lime" in Swahili.

Another surprise for us was a bottle of "Roses" lime syrup that stood proudly on the room desk. If you ever tried this syrup you would know that it is very sweet and hardly has any taste of lime as such. It is used in cocktails and is certainly not meant to be diluted in drinking water as a fresh lime juice supplement. We both got rather upset so it was decided that I take the "Roses" bottle and go to complain at the guests' relation desk again. For the first time we were let down using fresh lime fruit juice for more than 40 years after we learned about its benefit and enjoyment.

Long ago, Ljiljana was buying dozens of fresh lime fruits - green to yellowish with smooth, thin skins - at Khartoum (Sudan) main "souk" (market). Back home Beshir, our West Sudanese house servant, washed all fruit and vegetables in several waters, using some detergent too, under the strict supervision of Ljiljana. Beshir cut the limes in halves and squeezed out the juice, and the skin parts were left in plain water for a while. Later he pressed the skin to extract other aromatic substances into water bowl too. The latter liquid was then mixed with the plain juice and an adequate amount of fresh tap water was added to obtain several liters of the best drink for the Sudanese dry and very hot climate. Since then we have been drinking fresh lime juice mixed with water to taste. This juice mix quenches thirst best in the tropics and we never had any problems with bottled or tap water there. Why could we not get lime fruit at Kenya's coast now?


In a bad temper I arrived at the guests' relation desk and was greeted by the smiling PR manager, a coastal man whom we knew well from our previous visits. He listened carefully to my exasperation about fresh limes and took the "Roses" bottle with obvious resentment. He promised that he would see that we had fresh limes at the dining table and that he would send some to the room too. He told me the Swahili name for lime is "ndimu", explaining that the new employees from Upcountry wouldn't know the lime fruit as such. Even if we had asked a new waiter from Upcountry to bring us "ndimu", he would not have known what we were talking about.

A smaller LEMON (Citrus limon) and LIME alias NDIMU at right.


We met the new F&B manager after dinner and in the conversation I asked why we couldn't get "ndimu" with the drinking water, getting lemon instead. Obviously the gentleman didn't know what "ndimu" was, so another supervisor who joined us resolved the mystery about the lime fruit, alias ndimu, for all. We got a firm promise that limes cut in halves would be served to us with every meal during the rest of our stay.


We had the permission to get any amount of fresh limes from any employee's garden as required for use at home later. Thus we became known as the guests nicknamed "rafiki ndimu" (friends of ndimu).




Our old ndimu suppliers were happy to provide Ljiljana with a considerable amount of lime fruits from their gardens. The fruit was fresh smelling nicely and full of juice and we took some 150 pieces home. Back home the fruit was washed in a manageable number, cut in halves and the juice pressed out, placed in small boxes and placed in a deep freeze afterwards. The remaining skins were kept in clear water for a while, then hand-squeezed for their aromatic oils and this concentrate was kept apart in the refrigerator for subsequent usage. One should add a little of this aromatic oily dilution into the lime juice mix with fresh water because the aromatic oils do taste a little bit bitter.

A fresh lime with a few thin slices with seeds at center.


Our personal usage of lime: as treatment of cuts and scratches on coral rock (some are poisonous) and stops bleeding in a short time. A cut heals up in a few days leaving hardly any visible scar. One can use lime juice as a disinfectant due its large C-vitamin content in cases of throat or stomach ailments.


Explanations about various plants:


1. LIMAO alias LEMON

    Citrus limon (L.) Burm. f.; Syn. Citrus medico L. var. limon (L.) Osb.

    Rue family - RUTACEAE


First information from China about BC reached Europe as from 1000 – 1200 AD. It is cultivated in Asia, South & Central America, and southern North America and in some places in Europe. Fruits are of elliptic when cut lengthwise and have a distinct tip at one side. Fruits contain 3, 5 - 7 % citric acid and are rich in Vitamin C. The lemon tree gets to a height of 7 - 8m and has very stout branches with stiff thorns. The leaves are of paler green color and have a short and narrowly winged stalk clearly distinguished from the blade itself. The flowers have a strong and pleasant sent and are produced throughout the whole year. Thus flowering and fruiting is visible on a plant at the same time.


2. NDIMU alias LIME

    Citrus aurantiifolia (Christm.) Swingle

    Rue family - RUTACEAE


Lime has certain similarities to the lemon and originates from Southeast of Asia. It is mainly cultivated in tropical regions and especially in Central America. The tree grows green-yellowish fruits that similar to lemon but considerable smaller. The lime's fruit contains less citric acid than lemons but other aromatic substances are more present.  The lime tree resembles to the lemon's one but is smaller. One grows lime tree in gardens attached to houses but the plant escapes frequently and becomes naturalized. The produce is mostly consumed in producer's country and is rarely exported. The lime fruit juice was drunk on long sea voyages to prevent scurvy. It's used as popular flavoring and in cocktail mixes.

COLLINS' GUIDE to Tropical Plants by Wilhelm Loetschert & Gerhard Buse. Publisher: Collins, Grafton Street - London, ISBN 0 00 2191121 (1989)

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I have found more data about the Lime alias Citrus aurantiifolia in searching the Internet. I believe that it is good enough to be mentioned here too.


Lime propagates itself from seeds. This evergreen tree is small, spiny and irregularly branched and has small elliptic to oblong leaves are pale green. The white flowers are also small and produced in auxiliary clusters. The fruit is small, spherical or egg-shaped and thin-skinned having about 10 juicy sections that contain greenish seed leaves. The juice is acid with a distinctive flavor. Limes are gathered when fully grown, but still green, and shipped very soon after.

A young lime tree planted in an orchard.

 The trees are cultivated in orchards or groves and in gardens where the climate and soil are suitable as well as in greenhouse plants. It has been cultivated for its aromatic taste and processed into lime oil and juice. After the juice and oil have been squeezed out of the fruits, the skins are discarded. The processing plants are usually too small to justify drying facilities. The skins are a good feed when fresh, sun-dried or ensiled.


The seeds, usually collected separately in the factory, are rich in fat and should be mixed with the skins for feeding to cattle. Because of the toxic factors in the seeds, they should not be fed to poultry and should be fed to pigs with care as they tend to produce soft fat. Ruminants can tolerate them too. If lime skins are fed in large quantities to dairy cows, the morning milk may have a slight off-flavor and be opalescent. According to farmers who use them as need, lime seeds give animal fur a glossy shine and rid cattle of ticks.


A well developed lime bush in its natural tropical surrounding.

According to <http://www.heilfastenkur.de/Limette.shtml> lime contains the following substances: Essential oils (Bergapten, Citral, Linaool, Linalylacetat, Pinen, Sabinen, and Turpentine); Minerals (Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Natrium, and Phosphor); Vitamins (Foal-acid, vitamins A & C & E, Retinol, and Tocopherol). The therapeutic qualities are: antiseptic, antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-rheumatic, anti-depressive, and contracting.


Lime (Citrus aurantifolia) is presumably indigenous in Malaysia and has spread throughout the tropics and subtropics (Smith, 1985). It is native to the southern and south-eastern mainland of Asia and the bordering Malayan islands too. It was brought to America by the Spaniards scattering throughout the West Indies. Later lime has become naturalized to southern parts of Florida from where it spread to Mexico and into California.


The lime is present on the Pacific Islands too. There trees get to 4-8m height and have usually copious, short spines.  The leaves may be very variable what appears at different cultivars. In the Fijian Region the petioles may be 5-18mm long and 1.5-6mm broad across the wings, and the blades vary from 4x2 cm to 12x7 cm. The flowers have pale pink or white petals. The fruits are oviform or globular, 3.5-6 cm in diameter and greenish yellow when ripe, with thin, adherent peel and greenish, very acid fruit.  (Smith, 1985)


In Fiji limes are cultivated as well as naturalized on edges of forest near the sea shoreline to about 250m (Smith, 1985). In Niue limes are extensively naturalized, as well as thriving in a semi-cultivated state in the villages (Sykes, 1970). Limes persist in Guam in older abandoned farm areas and germ occasionally from seeds of planted trees (Stone, 1970). In New Caledonia limes are cultivated and often naturalized too (MacKee, 1994).


At last some common names in a selection of various languages


English: Key lime, lime, Mexican lime, West Indian lime

Fijian: laimi, moli kara, moli laimi

French: citron vert, limettier, limier

German: Limette

Maori (Cook Islands): tipolo, tiporo, tiporo

Niuean: sipolo fau ikiiki

Samoan: moli tipolo, tipolo, tipolo

Spanish: lima, limón, limón ceutí, limón verde

Tahitian: taporo, te tumu taporo


DISCLAIMER : On URL: http://www.cosy.sbg.ac.at/~zzspri/ published pages are originals and authorized by copyright of Zvonko Z. Springer, Salzburg 1999.