The first thing to know about Rangpur limes is that they’re not really limes at all. They’re actually a hybrid of lemons and mandarins, which they also resemble. If that’s hard to imagine, think clementines and you’re not far off: smallish, bright orange, with a smooth, thin peel that comes off easily to reveal segments that readily pull apart. The resemblance to sweet clementines ends, however, when you pop a Rangpur in your mouth. Rangpurs are intensely sour with a flavor like a smoky lime, hence the name.
The fruit originated in India where there used to be several settlements called Rangpur. The original Rangpur lime tree may have come from one of these locations, or perhaps from the modern town of Rangpur in Northern Bangladesh. Whatever the case, Rangpurs are still very much a part of Indian cuisine. For example, Rangpur lime juice is often added to mandarin juice—a regular drink around the country—to tart it up.
While Rangpur limes have had a bit of a popularity surge recently in the West thanks to Tanqueray® adding them to one of their their gins and showering it with a fantastically large marketing budget, for most of the last few thousand years they’ve been almost invisible. Rangpur limes did not make their way over to America until a seed was brought to Florida from India in the late 19th century. A century later, they’re still relatively unknown, even in California where they’re most common. They’re usually grown to be ornamental; in the summer, the trees are bedecked in small, aromatic purple flowers.
Robert Lambert, California’s resident citrus genius, learned about them and started working with Rangpurs a little less than a decade ago. He was pretty much the only one doing so, so for the time he had his pick of all of the Rangpur trees in Northern Calfornia. There weren’t many. These days he gets his Rangpurs from five or six sources, only one of which is a proper grower with land dedicated to growing Rangpur limes. Robert picks much of the citrus he uses himself, candies the peels, juices the fruit, packs the limes with salt, and does all the work to make the small array of Rangpur products available on our website. There’s nothing else like them, they make a great kitchen addition for any curious cook.