Seeds, seeds, seeds: they’re a natural byproduct if you’re one of only two commercial bakeries in the US juicing fresh key limes as your source for juice.
Some time ago, when Steve was having a conversation with key lime pie authority and writer David Sloan —the mastermind behind the annual Key Lime Pie Festival and long-time admirer of Steve’s devotion to key lime excellence and authenticity— the subject of sourcing local key limes in Key West came up, “They’re just not that easy to come across any more” Sloan told Steve.
Hurricane Irma had done a good job of wiping out many Key lime trees from an already dwindling population. David and Steve chatted about that unfortunate scenario for a bit, David might have even made a Johnny Appleseed reference, and that’s when I came up with the idea. Why not help put some key limes back in the Keys?
As many of you know, Steve began making key lime pies growing up in South Florida decades ago, and commercially here in Brooklyn about 25 years ago. But unlike most bakeries (even in the Keys) Steve has always made them the old-fashioned way: we’re using real, fresh squeezed key limes as our source for juice.
We started off offering free key lime seeds to any resident living in the Florida Keys just for the asking. But the seeds were crushed in the mail-processing and frankly, we’ve never grown a single key lime tree from dried seeds, always from fruit to ground. Add to that, we just found ourselves overwhelmed with collecting names and addresses, putting the dried seeds in small envelopes then bigger envelopes. As well intended as we were, it just wasn’t working.
We shifted to local civic groups or clubs who joined us in this “One Seed at a Time” initiative. We wanted to avoid blatant commercialization of this effort and we weren’t looking at setting up a nursery with saplings to sell, or help someone establish a commercial grove. The idea was to get seeds (and eventually trees) growing in people’s backyard. Okay, front or side yard is acceptable. Boy or Girl Scouts, Rotary or Kiwanis clubs, garden clubs, I think you get the idea.
Enter COVID-19. Everything got turned upside-down. From our total shutdown to our gradual reopening to now. We’re still sending seeds to the Florida Keys, but we’ve now started offering seeds for sale on ETSY. This offsets the cost, as nominal as that might be.
As a consumer of key limes, one of our bakery’s byproducts was the seeds, which got discarded with the rinds after juicing. Years ago we considered selling them on eBay or such, we we’re just too busy making pies to start another side-business. We take delivery of key limes by the pallet and go through literally tens of thousands of pounds of fresh key limes, and we discard thousands upon thousands of seeds. These are real key limes (citrus aurantiifolia Swingle,) the same variety the Spaniards were kind enough to drop off to the New World all those years ago, so the seeds will happily produce authentic key lime tree; yes, the kind with seedy limes and thorny limbs.
Years ago, when Steve registered the keylime.com domain name (WAY ahead of the curve we must say) he also registered keylime.org. Over the years that domain had had many iterations, all having something to do with Steve’s social outreach and non-commercial endeavors. We feel www.keylime.org has finally met its purpose and will be the new home to the “One Seed at a Time” initiative. Intentionally distanced from this site, keylime.org will maintain its own mailing list, maintain a calendar of events pertaining to its intent, and hopefully be successful in putting the Key Lime back in the Florida Keys.
In a perfect world, you will see fruit-bearing trees within 5-years. we’re off to a good start, please have a visit..