Purple Limes and Blood Oranges Could Be Next for Florida Citrus

— Written By

January 6, 2016

LAKE ALFRED, Fla. — University of Florida horticulture scientist Manjul Dutt is hoping to turn your next margarita on its head by making it a lovely lavender instead of passé pale green.

Dutt and Jude Grosser from the UF Citrus Research and Education Center are developing genetically engineered limes containing some similar genetic factors that are expressed in grape skin and blood orange pulp. These modified Mexican limes have a protein that induces anthocyanin biosynthesis, the process that creates the “red” in red wine, and causes the limes to develop a range of colors in the pulp from dark purple to fuchsia.

“Anthocyanins are beneficial bioflavonoids that have numerous roles in human well-being,” Dutt explained. “Numerous pharmacological studies have implicated their intake to the prevention of a number of human health issues, such as obesity and diabetes.”

Anthocyanins also naturally occur in a variety of oranges called blood oranges, which has a red to maroon colored flesh and, some say, a better taste than Florida’s “blond” oranges. But blood oranges need cold temperatures to develop their trademark vibrant color. They grow and color well in the cooler climates of Spain and Italy, but do not exhibit the characteristic blood red color when grown in the subtropical climate of the Florida citrus belt.
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purple-lime-crop
Genetically modified limes
Left, a lime with genes from red grapes. Center, a lime with genes from the blood orange. Right, a control.

Written By

Photo of Dr. Keith EdmistenDr. Keith EdmistenProfessor of Crop Science & Extension Cotton Specialist (919) 515-4069 keith_edmisten@ncsu.eduCrop and Soil Sciences - NC State University
Posted on Jan 11, 2016
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