Only a few hybrids caused a sensation and quickly established themselves as an integral part of the kitchen like calamondin. While naturally sour, that hasn’t stopped this citrus from tickling the taste buds of foodies and fans of East Asian cuisine. So much so, it’s the main ingredient in many beverages, delicacies, and marinades from the Philippines to eastern China.
If the oranges, grapefruits and tangerines are missing something in your garden and you want to rejuvenate your citrus garden, calamondin is the right exotic tree to plant. Like any other citrus tree, it grows with just enough twists to make it interesting. Read on to find out how to grow, harvest, and use calamondin fruits.
All About Calamondin
Calamondin (Citrus × microcarpa), born in the Philippines and Southeast Asia, quickly became the Seasoning choice to prepare various dishes and recipes popular in this part of the world. As a cross between mandarin orange and kumquat, it is an extremely sour fruit that is hardly suitable for eating raw. It has many names including calamansi, Filipino lemon, and Filipino lime.
The small tree or shrub will only be a little less than 6 feet when fully mature. It has dense foliage of dark green leaves that gives it a distinct edge from a decorative perspective. And unlike other citrus trees, the leaves of the calamondin tree have small wings on either side of the leaf base. They give the leaf the appearance of a small butterfly on the wing.
The tree’s blossoms are no less noticeable and appear in autumn. They can be either white or purple and although small, the flowers put a good show when waiting for pollinators. The fruits of the tree will be the size of an average linden tree. But they turn orange when ripe. You can start harvesting from November to March.
The pulp of the fruit is also orange, and the juice is the same color as well. And despite their small size, each fruit has between 8 to 12 seeds . You need to remove the pips before using the pulp or juice in your recipes.
Fruits this acidic can shut you up make it perfect for making juice or smoothies to quench your thirst on a hot summer day. But it’s the same bitter taste and spice that will split your tongue that has given calamondin its proper place in the heart of Southeast Asian cuisine today. Over the years, its use spread from the kitchen to the medicine jar, where it became indispensable in many ointments and preparations for the treatment of various diseases. Here are some of the most common uses.
- Whatever dish you’re making, you’ll always want a dose of seasoning and flavoring to make it tastier. Calamondin has a sour pulp that is full of flavor.
- The frozen pulp can be diced to fruit juices and tea for added flavor.
- The peel is sweet in the Contrasted with the pulp and its flavor, it goes well with many dishes, including marinades and sauces.
- The juice of the fruit goes well with vodka and Sugar.
- The juice of this citrus fruit gives fish, pork and poultry in marinades a sharp but appealing taste. It is the main ingredient in Asian recipes from this region.
- The ripe fruit was popular in Florida, and delicious cakes were made from pulp and peel.
How to grow calamondin
Although calamondin is a hybrid and the general opinion is against planting varieties from seeds, this time we have to use seeds. For one thing, the hybrids have been around for centuries and many of their genetic traits are already established. So there’s little chance the new tree will look any different from its parent. How to start this citrus tree in your garden from seeds.
- As a tropical citrus, the tree can only grow in zones 9 through 11 in the garden.Dig the smaller seeds out of the pulp with your fingers. Avoid using large seeds as they have a low germination rate.
- Wash the pulp from the seeds and keep them in a glass of lukewarm water.
- Choose a sunny location that gets up to 8 hours of sun in fall and winter.
- Prepare the soil in the garden and turn the top 12 inches up.Let the soil sit in the sun for a week.
- Dig a deep hole about four inches deep and throw a seed in it. Fill up with soil and set.
- Do the same with the other seeds. Place them a foot apart. You can remove the seedlings you don’t need later.
- Water the plaster to keep the soil moist, but not wet. Keep it moist until the seeds germinate.
- It may take 2 to 4 weeks for the seeds to finally germinate.
- Keep watering the seedlings as they emerge, and check their progress.
- Dilute the seedlings and leave only one healthy and strong plant.
- If you want to grow more than one tree, transplant the other healthy seedlings and keep them 3 m apart.
One thing you do should say to trees in general, they don’t need a lot of maintenance. Once established, the tree will find the moisture and nutrients it needs in the deep depressions of the soil. But the calamondin is just a small tree with a relatively shallow root system. So it will rely on you for watering and feeding. You will also need to take regular vigorous pruning of the tree to keep it in shape. Even more so, if you grow it in a container.
Whether you are growing the calamondin bush in a container or in the garden, the soil needs to be adjusted. Ordinary soil, even loamy soil, will not work with this variety. To give it a head start, dig a hole a foot deep and a foot wide and fill it with potting soil. Add organic compost and perlite in a 2: 1: 1 ratio in favor of the potting soil. Mix it well and let it sit in the sun for a few days before planting the citrus fruits. The pH of the soil should be slightly acidic, although you can get away with neutral pHs too. As long as you get a score between 6.0 and 7.0, your floor is fine.
Light and Temperature
If you have an orange tree in your garden, you can easily provide the necessary light and temperature for your calamondin tree. She prefers bright light, full sun and warm temperatures. In other words, the more tropical your microclimate, the better for these citrus fruits. As long as your daytime temperature doesn’t drop below 70 degrees F and doesn’t exceed 90 degrees F year round, you won’t have any problems.
If you grow it as a potted plant, keep it near a window facing west or south. Turn the pot a quarter turn every week during the growing season to prevent the canopy from looking crooked.
Although the tree gets almost all of its moisture needs from the top inches of the soil, it doesn’t like to over water. You don’t need to keep the soil moist all the time either, as this citrus fruit has a high tolerance for drought. And to encourage deep root growth, water the soil deeply but give it time between waterings. When the top inches of the soil dry out, your tree needs watering. Reduce watering when the weather cools. The water supply varies depending on the microclimate. If the summer is hot and dry, water the tree twice a week.
The calamondin is a powerful fertilizer. It needs a full-fledged citrus fertilizer throughout the growing season. Just make sure the fertilizer is soluble and apply it once a month. You can also dress with organic compost and aged manure. If the tree grows in a container, the citrus fertilizer will do. Water the tree immediately after each use to avoid root burns. If the tree is slow to flower, hold out watering and feeding until the leaves droop and wither. Then apply the soluble fertilizer and then pour vigorously.If the sun hits only one side of the tree, that side becomes lush and dense, and the tree becomes crooked.
This is more of a risk with potted plants where the tree could tip over. To encourage more even foliage growth, you’ll need to bring your trusty secateurs to the tree after the harvest. Focus on clearing paths for the sun and wind to get inside the canopy. Cut off one of two crossing branches and regularly remove any dead, damaged, or diseased branches. Pruning also allows you to change the shape of the tree. It could have a tall trunk or a bushy canopy of leaves, depending on how you prune it. If you want to give it a bushy look, pinch the tip of the top branch and encourage lateral growth. For a taller and slimmer canopy, cut off the side branches.
Pests and Diseases
Of the many pests that infest the calamondin tree, citrus burrs, scales, and aphids are those to watch out for should spray the tree with neem oil if you notice pest activity on the tree. Good air circulation and bright sunlight are important factors in keeping fungal infections at bay. This is another reason why you should prune your citrus tree on a regular basis.
Your calamondin tree will begin to produce fruit in the first two to three years of its life. The lime-sized fruits are harvested from the moment they are green until they are fully ripe. The harvest season begins in November and lasts until March of the next year. To cut the fruit, hold it with one hand and cut off the stem with sterilized scissors.
The fruits can be stored for months at room temperature without losing their taste or sour taste. However, if you want to extend its shelf life, cut the fruit with an inch of stalk on it. The stem continues to feed the fruit, preventing it from wilting too soon.