Updated:February28,2024 Here at NHG, we know you love pretty blooms that are easy to plant,…
A large crop of Texas-grown citrus trees has landed at NHG, and among favorites like ‘Meyer’ lemons, some lesser-known gems can be found. Here are three featured varieties that gardeners of all experience levels can succeed with, given some time and care:
‘Makrut’ (aka Kafir or Kaffir) limes (Citrus hystrix) are native to tropical Asia and reach up to 35 feet tall in their native range. Here, they grow to about five feet and thrive in containers, where they can be kept on a patio or deck in full sun during warm months (they’ll need to be moved indoors during freezes). Provide good drainage, as soggy soil can lead to root rot. Generally, the plants are pest-free, but do keep an eye out for evidence of scale or mites. Prune the plant while young to encourage branching and bushier growth.
The distinctive leaves resemble two leaves fused together, with one appearing to grow from the tip of the other. The leaves are the most frequently used part of the plant and can be enjoyed fresh, dried or frozen. They’re an essential flavoring in Thai, Lao, Vietnamese and Cambodian dishes, including soups, curries and fish, and the rind of the fruit is also finely zested in many dishes.
How can I use Makrut Limes?
There are many ways to incorporate Makrut limes into your cooking. Here are a few ideas:
- Zest: The fragrant zest of the Makrut lime is a popular ingredient in Southeast Asian cuisine. Use a microplane or fine grater to finely zest the outer layer of the fruit and add it to dishes for a burst of citrus flavor.
- Leaves: The leaves of the Makrut lime tree are often used in cooking to add a unique citrusy aroma to dishes. Simply bruise the leaves and add them to curries, soups, and stir-fries for a distinctive flavor.
- Juice: The juice of the Makrut lime can be used in marinades, dressings, and cocktails to add a tangy and refreshing element. Squeeze the fruit to extract the juice and use it in your favorite recipes.
- Infusions: Makrut limes can also be used to infuse oils, vinegar, and spirits like vodka or rum. Simply add the zest or leaves to the liquid of your choice and let it sit for a few days to impart a subtle citrus flavor.
Pummelo (Citrus maxima) is the largest citrus fruit and is the principal ancestor of the modern grapefruit. It’s native to southeastern Asia, where it grows on riverbanks in Fuji and the Friendly Islands. Pummelos were introduced to China around 100 BC and made their way to the United States in 1919, where they were grown experimentally in the quarantine station in Bethesda, Maryland.
Our two varieties include ‘Hirado’ (aka ‘Hirado Butan’), which was introduced (or found) in Japan in about 1910. This vigorous variety can grow to about ten feet tall and is unusually cold-tolerant. The large fruit has smooth, yellow peel and pale yellow pulp. Segments may be separated and used in salads, desserts, or preserves. In North Vietnam, the aromatic flowers are used in perfume making and the tough, fine-grained wood is used for tool handles. Our other variety, ‘Sarawak’, is also native to Southeast Asia. This variety has a greenish peel even when ripe, and pulp may range from lime green to dark purple. It shares many of the cultural characteristics of ‘Hirado.’
What Asian Dishes does Pummelo go with?
Pummelo is a versatile fruit that can be used in various Asian dishes. Here are some popular ways to incorporate pummelo into your cooking:
- Salad: Pummelo is often added to salads for fresh citrus flavor and juicy texture. Try adding segments or pieces of pummelo to a Thai pomelo salad (Yam Som-O) along with shrimp, peanuts, and herbs for a refreshing and flavorful dish.
- Desserts: Pummelo can be used in desserts like sorbets, tarts, and fruit salads to add a sweet and tangy element. Try incorporating pummelo segments or zest into a coconut panna cotta or citrus pavlova for a tropical twist.
- Preserves: Pummelo can also be used to make preserves, jams, and marmalades. The sweet and slightly tart flavor of pummelo pairs well with sugar and other fruits, making it a delicious addition to spreads for toast or pastries.
- Cocktails: Pummelo juice can be used in cocktails to add a unique citrus flavor. Try mixing pummelo juice with vodka, gin, or rum for a fun and citric cocktail!
Satsuma mandarins (Citrus unshiu) are a variety of tangerine with a relaxed, open habit that can reach ten feet tall and wide. Satsumas are grown primarily for fresh consumption. It is best to keep them in containers, where they can be moved inside to protect them from frost—they’re cold hard only to about 22 degrees F.
Our varieties include ‘Seto’ and ‘Okitsu’; ‘Seto’ matures early and produces relatively large fruit with a smooth, thin peel. The fruit is slightly flattened and usually matures around Thanksgiving. ‘Okitsu’ is a vigorous grower and is also cold tolerant; the fruit matures in late September or early October and is seedless and easy to peel.
Why use Satsuma Mandarins in the Fall?
Satsuma mandarins are often consumed in the fall due to their peak freshness during this season, making them a popular choice for fall recipes.
Satsumas are a convenient snack due to their easy peel and seedless nature, making them great for on-the-go consumption or lunch packing. Their sweet and tangy flavor also pairs well with various fall dishes, including salads, desserts, and cocktails.
Satsumas are a good source of Vitamin C and other nutrients that can support the immune system during the colder months. Including Satsuma mandarins in your diet in the fall can help increase your Vitamin C intake when many other fruits are out of season.
Our tropical greenhouse is filled with the fragrance of blooming citrus plants right now. Citrus is a popular crop for edible and ‘foodie’ gardeners, so visit us soon to select the perfect addition to your garden! If you want to know more about Gardening in Texas Zone 8 you can follow this link.
By Ann Grimes, MAg, NHG Garden Advisor