The Kaffir lemon (Citrus hystrix), also known as Kaffir lime, is a citrus plant renowned for its aromatic leaves and distinctive fruit. Here's a plant description of the Kaffir lemon:
Botanical Name: Citrus hystrix
Plant Type: Evergreen citrus tree
Origin: Native to Southeast Asia, particularly Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
Growth Habit: The Kaffir lemon tree is a small to medium-sized tree with a bushy and densely branched canopy. It can grow up to 6-10 feet (1.8-3 meters) in height.
Leaves: The Kaffir lemon is well-known for its unique and aromatic leaves. The leaves are glossy, dark green, and divided into two distinct lobes, giving them a distinctive appearance. They have a strong, citrusy fragrance and are widely used in various culinary dishes.
Fruit: The Kaffir lemon produces small, bumpy-skinned fruit that is generally smaller than regular lemons. The fruit's peel is dark green and rough, while the flesh is pale green and relatively dry compared to other citrus fruits. The juice is seldom used due to its tart and bitter taste; however, the aromatic leaves are the main focus of this plant's culinary and aromatic uses.
Aromatic Qualities: The leaves of the Kaffir lemon tree are highly aromatic and are an essential ingredient in many Southeast Asian dishes. They are commonly used to add flavor to curries, soups, stir-fries, and other savory dishes. The zest and leaves of the Kaffir lemon are prized for their intense citrusy aroma and are used to enhance the flavor of various foods and beverages.
Cultivation: Kaffir lemon trees prefer a warm, tropical to subtropical climate and thrive in well-draining, fertile soil. They require full sunlight for optimal growth and fruit production. Regular watering is essential, but it's important to allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings. Pruning can help maintain the tree's shape and promote healthy growth.
Uses: The Kaffir lemon's leaves are the main attraction of this plant, used primarily for culinary and aromatic purposes. They are commonly used in Thai, Indonesian, and other Southeast Asian cuisines to impart a distinct citrusy flavor and fragrance to dishes. The leaves can be used fresh or dried, and their aromatic oils are also utilized in perfumes and cosmetics.