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Old 04-24-2011, 11:22 PM   #1
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Why so bitter?

This year I decided to make a delicious Easter meal of fish, bread, and honey.
Sadly, my meal did not turn out very delicious. I mixed a couple tablespoons of honey with the juice of half a lime. I brushed both sides of a 2/3 lb cod filet with the mixture and sprinkled both sides with kosher salt, I then thinly sliced the other half of the lime and laid the slices over the fish, wrapped it in parchment, and baked it. I'd had it prepared similarly with lemon slices, so I thought, why not? When I opened the paper after cooking, the fish was sitting in a significant amount of juice. I excitedly tasted the juice and yep, you guessed it, it was awful. Soooo bitter. I removed the lime slices, poured off the juice, brushed the leftover 1/3 of the honey & lime mixture over the fish and simmered it in a skillet on top of the stove for a few minutes on each side to kill any cross-contamination bacteria from the lime-honey. I "salvaged" it, it was edible (or so I thought), at least in the thickest part of the fish, but not terribly enjoyable. I've deduced that the lime pith must have added the bitterness, which brings me to 2 questions.

1 Was the intense bitterness because I bought limes out of season, or possibly old limes? or is this normal for lime? I've eaten a few dishes and seen many with cooked lemon or orange slices that didn't have this problem, I guess I just assumed it would work with limes, too.

2. Has anyone ever gotten an upset stomach from a similar experience? My daughter (not surprisingly) didn't like the fish, but we made her eat a little anyway, which she promptly threw up. At first I attributed it to the bitterness, since she took a fairly large bite, started to gag, and then vomited. Then, about 15 minutes later, my stomach was upset and within the hour, my husband's was as well. I then worried about food poisoning. I'm sure the fish was cooked sufficiently, even the second time after adding the lime & honey, and the fish didn't smell questionable before I cooked it, but I thought it was still the most likely culprit. However, now, only a few hours later, we feel fine again. My poor little girl was the only one who got any real food poisoning symptoms besides an upset tummy, and she was running, jumping, and laughing 5 minutes after. I'm wondering if the lime pith could be the problem again. Any thoughts?

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Old 04-24-2011, 11:30 PM   #2
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I think I read somewhere that lime can get bitter if it is overcooked. I can't help you about the rest of it though. Sorry you're feeling icky. Feel better soon.
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Old 04-25-2011, 12:28 AM   #3
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yep, 'twere the limes for bitterness, but the vomiting could be from bad honey, bad fish, or the bitter limes.

i'm not sure what you mean by out of season as global produce has adulterated most kinds of markets, but honey can't be bitter, and fish can't either. but any of them can make you sick.
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Old 04-25-2011, 12:59 AM   #4
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Thanks, Alix!
BT, I have no idea when limes are in season & they aren't grown anywhere near where I live. I just know that buying produce that's out of season in your region can be risky, and different produce types have different problems if they're picked too soon. Most things are just flavorless, but I didn't know if early picking so they can be shipped halfway around the world could cause bitterness. That's why I threw that one in.
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Old 04-25-2011, 02:19 AM   #5
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it was a good presumption.

i buy cheap produce for my parrots from "farmers" markets fairly often and am constantly surprised at how good or how bad it can be, usually leaning towards the latter. (it is cheap, afterall, and you get what you pay for)

i put farmers in quotes because while that's what they call themselves, catering to the local immigrant populations while importing most produce from those same foreign countries their customers left.

it's fun to find delicious, out of local season fruit, but more often it's subpar. good enough for wasteful parrots, though.

i've bought limes that were hideously bitter before. i suspect you might have gotten the same. do you have any left to taste raw?
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Old 04-25-2011, 03:11 AM   #6
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Quote:
bad honey
Honey never goes bad. =) It will get crystals in it eventually but that is not a sign of "expired" honey (low heat will easily remove them). They've recovered honey from Egyptian tombs which was placed there centuries ago that was still perfectly good.
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Old 04-25-2011, 03:20 AM   #7
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sorry, you're right. honey won't normally go bad, but if things are introduced into it, it can. honry.
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Old 04-25-2011, 05:02 AM   #8
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Just some observations as apparently there's no way to really pinpoint what went wrong.
Your description of how you prepared and cooked the cod is right in line with many recipes and you didn't overdo quantities, so we can fairly safely rule out a defective recipe.
So did you taste the lime juice before using it? Limes can certainly be bitter and could ruin a dish, but I don't believe they can be responsible for food poisoning, as honey can't.
By process of elimination, the most likely culprit is the cod as unfortunately bad fish is often responsible for food poisoning, and if if the fish was bad, that would also affect the taste.
Anyway the good news is that you're all okay.
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Old 04-25-2011, 08:00 AM   #9
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Lime can be quite bitter; so much so that some consider it a good digestive.
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Old 04-25-2011, 11:46 AM   #10
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Yep, the bitterness was definitely from the lime peel. I did taste the juice before cooking. I still have a tiny bit of the lime left in the fridge. I just used my teeth to bruise the peel & then licked it. Bitter as can be. Now I wonder how to tell a bitter lime from a not bitter lime!
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Old 04-25-2011, 11:54 AM   #11
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Vomiting immediately after eating something is not a sign of food poisoning. Its a gag reflex.
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Old 04-25-2011, 12:18 PM   #12
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This is interesting.
So this can happen to limes, but not lemons?

I mean the bitterness, not the gag reflex, lol.
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Old 04-25-2011, 12:26 PM   #13
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Old lemons can get bitter. Lemon pith is bitter.

But I think limes tend to get more bitter than lemons.
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Old 04-25-2011, 12:45 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jennyema View Post
Old lemons can get bitter. Lemon pith is bitter.

But I think limes tend to get more bitter than lemons.
Good info.
I usually just use the juice from a lime, but if I ever get the inkling to slice one and put it on something I'll be sure to taste it first. I do this with lemons and have either been lucky or the bitterness was lost amongst the other flavors and not as strong.
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Old 04-25-2011, 01:08 PM   #15
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Vomiting immediately after eating something is not a sign of food poisoning. Its a gag reflex.
That's where my confusion came from. DD vomited. She ate a few bites of the food, then played with it for a while, then when we tried to get her to eat more, she got fussy. We thought she was just distracted because we were sitting on the floor picnic style and because the fish didn't taste that great. So we made her eat another bite anyway & she vomited. I figured she was just more sensitive to the bitterness than we are. Gagging is a fairly common reaction to bitterness. I remember from physiology, they said in some people the reflex has held on and associated it with a protective reflex, as most naturally-found poisons are bitter in flavor. I figured that was all it was, especially since she was jumping, laughing, and playing only a few minutes later, but then a little while later DH and I started feeling sick.

I think the lime was the cause of the stomach ache, too, because after tasting the lime peel earlier, my stomach has been a bit upset. How strange...
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Old 04-25-2011, 01:31 PM   #16
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Without being too indelicate here, someone mentioned that limes are a digestive. Um...that would account for the tummy issues. Lime might stimulate your digestive tract to move more quickly than normal, causing pain. Just a thought.

As for how to tell what is going to be bitter or not, the juice will usually be fine, as will the zest. The PITH is the bitter nasty stuff. If you can avoid getting any hint of it in your dish you should be fine. When you are zesting citrus you must be very careful not to get any of the white stuff at all. Apparently you need to be doubly careful with limes. This has worked for me so hopefully it will help you too.
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Old 04-25-2011, 05:31 PM   #17
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There is another factor with bitter. Super tasters taste bitter a lot more than normal tasters and non-tasters. ~25% of people are super tasters.
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Old 04-25-2011, 06:56 PM   #18
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i thought it was a lot less, taxy. like around 10%.

thank god i'm not one. it sounds great but it's akin to having the ability to sense smells like a dog. you can smell poop from a mile away.
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Old 04-25-2011, 07:06 PM   #19
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i thought it was a lot less, taxy. like around 10%.

thank god i'm not one. it sounds great but it's akin to having the ability to sense smells like a dog. you can smell poop from a mile away.
Better than tasting it a mile away.
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Old 04-25-2011, 07:23 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by buckytom View Post
i thought it was a lot less, taxy. like around 10%.

thank god i'm not one. it sounds great but it's akin to having the ability to sense smells like a dog. you can smell poop from a mile away.
I just recently did some googling. I would have thought it was around 10% too.

But, dogs don't mind the smell of poop. I think that to them it's like us having colour vision. I don't really dislike most colours, they're just colours. Maybe for a dog, they are just smells.
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