The Kaffir Lime Tree
Every time someone new visits our yard, we take them straight to our kaffir lime tree (Citrus hystrix) to introduce them. We find that most people have never heard of it. However, those that are familiar with it absolutely love this fabulous tree.
The first thing I do is pick a leaf off the tree, crush it and stick it right up to our guests nose and say, “smell this”. The reaction is always the same… oh wow! We never fail to send our guests home with a freezer bag full of the fresh leaves. They freeze perfectly for later use. They can frequently be found in the freezer section of most Asian markets in the U.S.
It’s tough to describe the flavor and smell of the kaffir because it is unique. It’s very pleasing though. Most people love it right off the bat. Personally, I don’t think I could live without it in my life. Okay, that might be a tad dramatic, but you get my drift. It’s exquisite.
I have a kaffir lime tree growing in my front yard and in the back. My kids love to grab a leaf as they walk by the tree, crunch it up in their hand and hold it for awhile. Sometimes they’ll bring some leaves in the house to throw in their glass of water or lemonade. I do cook with the leaves quite a bit too, especially in my coconut milk, lemongrass chicken and Thai curries. The leaves are used to flavor and are not usually eaten. For some more kaffir lime leaf recipe ideas, check out ThaiTable.com.
It is the leaf of this citrus tree that is generally used for culinary reasons, not the fruit. We’ve started using the fruit recently though and now we wonder why we didn’t start using it sooner. The fruit tastes exactly like the leaf but it’s very sour (a little bitter maybe). We think the kaffir lime makes a wonderful drink and we even add the zest to the drink. I like to add a little of the zest to my yerba mate too. I’m sure there are thousands of ways to use this incredible flavor. I will not be letting them fall off the tree to rot anymore.
The kaffir lime tree grows well in zones 9, 10 and 11. It is susceptible to frost damage. My trees have been through a couple very cold Florida winters recently and only had minimal damage. They recovered quickly from their frost bite.
Check out LifesDandies.com for more information on finding a kaffir lime tree in Florida.
I haven’t grown a kaffir lime tree in a container for myself, but I’m certain the tree would do well if it was taken care of properly. It would need to be fed during its growth cycle and shouldn’t be overwatered. My favorite book on growing edible trees in containers is Growing Tasty Tropical Plants*in any home, anywhere… by Laurelynn G. Martin and Byron E. Martin. I love this book for its pictures because it inspires me and gives me great ideas. The book gives some information on how to grow tropicals inside, but I think it could use a lot more. It still remains one of my favorites.
Have I talked you into growing a kaffir lime tree for yourself? I hope so.
Come grow with us!