Citrus fruit has always been somewhat ubiquitous, having grown up in various warm weather areas where it was a predominant crop. I’ve been in the market for a small citrus plant for the past couple of months, wanting to bring a bit of that fragrance into my garden. At my parents’ old house, we had a huge lime bush and a grapefruit tree that gave us copious amounts of fruit. At my parents’ new house, they have a few potted kumquats, which are much more container-friendly and so much fun to nibble on. While I knew that I wouldn’t be able to grow a citrus in the ground this far north, there seemed to be plenty of people online who had successfully kept (and gotten decent harvests from) container-grown plants that could be moved indoors during the winter. It was finding such a plant that became the biggest problem.
I had pretty much decided that I’d have to order online and deal with expensive shipping. Then, a couple of weeks ago, we happened to pass by a specimen of one of the largest gardening chain stores in the Nordic countries, sitting right next to the mall. On that day, I actually ended up coming home with a large aloe vera plant since it seemed the more necessary purchase (people were getting sunburned right and left from this summer’s unprecedented heat wave) and the car was too full to shove in a little tree as well. Two days ago, we passed by the store again on the way back from Helsinki and I finally got my first citrus tree.
Everybody, please meet my calamondin tree. It’s a smallish shrub that takes pretty well to indoor living and fruits year-round. They say it’s a cross between a mandarin and a kumquat, both of which I would also like to eventually have. It’s used in Southeast Asian cooking, but is known mostly in North America as an ornamental plant. The fruits are sour in the middle with a thin sweet rind, like a kumquat. Except they’re shaped like little tangerines. Really cool. Pardon the clashing blue gravel — it was what was on hand and I needed to cover up the soil so the cats wouldn’t dig around in it. Cats apparently hate citrus, so nobody has touched it yet, but I wouldn’t put it past Coco to stick her paw in the soil anyway and fling it around a bit. This way, everything stays covered and out of sight of prying kitties.
And here’s a pitcher of pure calamondinade (hee, say that five times fast) made from some of the fruits that I harvested yesterday while transplanting it into the bigger pot. When the fruits are greener, they taste remarkably similar to limes. The orangey ones are closer to kumquat. The result is a slightly more complex limeade, and perfect over ice for these hot summer days. I’d debated whether or not to add in some flavoring herbs as well (the mint and lavender are both in need of a pruning) but I wanted this first batch to be simple so we could taste the fruit. Which are behind the cut if you’re wondering.
Ignore that big green lime to the right, I just threw that into the juicer because it had been rolling around the fruit drawer looking lonely 🙂 The orangey-yellow fruits are the calamondins. They’re between 1-2 inches in diameter, so not too far off from kumquat sized. You can see I picked some while they were still green as well. I read somewhere that they have more juice when picked at that stage, like limes. It’s true! When I cut the orange ones open, they were definitely a bit on the pithy side. The green ones had much more juicy flesh in comparison. So I’ll be plucking them when they get just a blush of yellow in the future. At least for juicing purposes. They do get sweeter as they get more orangey, so anybody looking to eat them off the tree would probably want them riper.
Ten wee calamondins and a lime gave me about 1/4 cup of juice, which was perfect for one pitcher. They were easy to juice, since the rinds are very thin. You could pretty much squash them against any surface as long as you had something to collect the juice in. Added to the typical simple syrup and water mixture and chilled.
I let the rinds dry out a bit, then pulsed them in the food processor to chop them up. Now they’re frozen in a plastic bag for later use in flavoring sauces. I saved the seeds and planted them in a little plastic pot which now lives above the freezer vent. With any luck, they should sprout in a couple of weeks. It would be nice to be able to give everybody sunny little citrus seedlings this Christmas 🙂