07 Sep 4 Advantages to Having a Kaffir Lime Tree
Fresh Ingredients & Easy to Grow
Fresh ingredients make any dish more delicious, and one of the best ways to ensure a steady supply of fresh ingredients is to grow them at home. Kaffir lime trees thrive outside in USDA hardiness zones 9-11, and can live as a potted plant indoors. This means that anyone who has access to a window with 5-6 hours sunlight can grow fresh, local ingredients for authentic Southeast Asian cuisine conveniently at home. In addition, kaffir lime trees are an excellent choice as they are really only susceptible two pests: mites and scale. Both mites and scale can be controlled either through cultural practices (such as keeping trees away from other infected plants) or through sprays (the University of Clemson Extension suggests using a horticultural spray or a canola oil spray). Because these trees are self-pollinating, only one tree is needed to produce fruit. A Kaffir lime tree is an excellent choice for home cooks, plant enthusiasts, or anyone who wants an interesting conversation about fruits.
Cooking with Kaffir Lime Leaves
Unlike most types of fruit trees, leaves from the kaffir lime tree are used for cooking. Many Thai and Southeast Asian dishes including curries, soups, seafood, and even rice use kaffir lime leaves to add a bright citrus flavor. Whether cooking Southeast Asian recipes with authentic ingredients, or using the leaves to create new fusion food, adding fresh kaffir lime leaves to many dishes adds a new dimension of complexity. These leaves can also be frozen and retain their intense flavor. Because fresh kaffir lime leaves can be difficult to find in supermarkets, having a kaffir lime tree guarantees a steady supply of fresh kaffir lime leaves.
Natural Plant-Based Insect Repellant
Kaffir limes have been used as insect repellant throughout Southeastern Asia. In the past twenty years, kaffir limes have begun gaining traction in peer-reviewed journals (J Vector Ecology and the Journal of Biological Engineering Research & Review) as an effective mosquito repellant, competing against DEET. The citronella oil can be easily extracted using steam to make a mosquito repellant. This oil can then be used to make lotions and shampoos that not only smell fantastic, but also discourage mosquitos.
It is no secret that some plants are more aesthetically pleasing than others, and a kaffir lime tree is a fantastic conversation-starter when used ornamentally. The leaves are a deep, dark green year-round with petite white flowers. The flowers develop into a bumpy, green fruit that look like they came from a fairy tale’s pages. These are dwarf trees, which means they mature at 5 feet – tall enough to provide shade for flowers, but short enough to fit into even the smallest apartment.