Kaffir lime

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Kaffir Lime is both a fruit and a herb. A member of the citrus family, the fruit yields little or no juice. Unlike other limes, in this variety it is the leaves and the zest of the Kaffir lime that is used in south-east asian especially Thai and Malay cooking. Kaffir Lime originated in South-East Asia or some specifically say Indonesia.

Why should I be aware of this?

Kaffir lime has culinary, therapeutic and cosmetic uses.

All about kaffir lime

The name "Kaffir Lime" has a derogatory connotation, the word "kaffir" meaning "non-believer". Many recent reference texts therefore prefer not to use this name and instead use the term "Thai Lime" or "Makrut Lime". Synonyms for Kaffir Lime include Bai Makrut in Thai, Limau purut in Malay and Citrus hystrix in Latin.

Appearance

The leaves of the kaffir lime tree are of a glossy dark green colour and are unique. One leaf spine apparently has two leaves growing one on top of the other. The leaves, unlike other citrus leaves are not bitter in taste and are extremely fragrant.

The kaffir lime fruit is about the size of a western lime. The fruit is dark green in colour very glossy and has a bumpy knobby surface. The flesh is dry and the fruit yields little or no juice.The latin name for the kaffir lime tree is hystrix or Greek for porcupine. This indicates the extremely thorny appearence of this lime.

Culinary Uses

One of the most distinctive flavours of Thai cuisine, it provides the regions curries and soups with their authentic light flavour. The leaves are used as a herb and the skin of the lime is ground, used as a marinade and a rub and as an essential ingredient in the famous Thai curry pastes.

The leaves are also used as garnishes, They are shredded and used as flavouring agents in salad dressings and stuffed inside poultry before roasting in order to infuse the final dish with its unusual lemon flavour.

In eastern Indian cooking (Bengali), the skin is once again used as a marinade and a rub for fish and other seafood. In Bengal the lemon is called a Gondhuraj lemon. The fish and seafood that are marinated in this paste lends well to steaming.

Though dried Kaffir Lime leaves and zest are available they do not provide the authentic Kaffir lime flavour. The leaves and the zest must be used fresh.

Kaffir Lime and health

Kafir Lime leaves contain volatile oils which have therapeutic benefits.

The extract of the plant helps increase the circulation of the blood, is an appetite enhancer and like all members of the citrus family acts as an anti- bacterial and an anti-inflammatory.

Use in herbal medicine

  • The fruit and leaves are excellent for skin regeneration.
  • Traditional malay medicine in Pahang used Kaffir Lime juice to treat dandruff and hair loss and encourage healthy hair growth.
  • Kaffir Lime also acts as an excellent rejuvenator , alleviates colds, and helps regain energy and dispell tiredness.
  • Kaffir lime juice may be mixed with water and drunk three times a day as a tonic, to dispel fatigue and tiredness and increase the circulation of the blood.
  • The traditional Malay sauna bath or mandi wap uses the leaves of the Kaffir Lime.
  • The extract of the fruit is used in aromatherapy.

Properties as an insect repellant

“Volatile oils extracted by steam distillation from four plant species turmeric, kaffir lime, citronella grass and hairy basil, were evaluated in mosquito cages and in a large room for their repellency effects against three mosquito vectors, Aedes aegypti, Anopheles dirus and Culex quinquefasciatus.

The oils from , especially with the addition of 5% vanillin, repelled the three species under cage conditions for up to eight hours.

What can I do?

  • The juice of the kafir lime is also used to remove rust from iron vessels and articles and a regular application will ward off rusting.
  • Kaffir lime peel may be used to rub on the face to lighten freckles and clarify the skin.
  • It is also an excellent astringent and acts as an anti-bacterial agent helping to control pimple outbreaks.
  • It is a good mosquito repellant just like turmeric, citronella grass and hairy basil.[1]

Growing Kaffir Lime

  • The Kaffir Lime will only bear fruit if two genetically different plants are cross pollinated. Plants from the same of similiar rooted cuttings will not bear fruit.
  • To ensure increased and quicker yields as well as the ability to withstand disease may be ensured by grafting cuttings of the Kaffir lime tree onto other citrus root stock.
  • It is possible to grow Kaffir limes from seed. It may be noted that Kaffir Lime trees are notoriously difficult to grow.
  • The conditions required for the plant to grow well are a moist, well drained soil and full sun. It is important to ensure that even if the plant is in the full sun, the roots must be protected from the heat.
  • Since a certain amount of sunlight is required the plant should not be grown in the shade, the drainage may be imprved by planting tree into a mound of earth. Manuring and fertilizing should be done in the growing season with a manure that includes naturally composted cow or chicken manure.[1]

References

  • The Book of Ingredients: Philip Dowell and Adrian Bailey; Penguin/ Mermaid Books 1993
  • Citrus guide
  • Kaffir Lime aplications
  • Kaffir Lime
  • Limau-purut