Friday, March 26, 2010

The Calamondin

While making a delivery today in Downtown Charleston, I noticed something interesting. There was a tree next door to where I was delivering that seemed to have a lot of bird activity in it. I looked up into to see what might have been attracting them. To my amazement, I was looking up into a 25 foot Calamondin, with lots of fruit hanging on it, in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, planted in the ground. To say the least, I was extremely impressed! What is a Calamondin you ask?
Most likely of Chinese origin. It was introduced in Florida in 1899. The Calamondin is thought to basically be an Orangequat resulting from a cross between a sour, loose skinned Mandarin and a Kumquat. The peel is thin and smooth, yellow to yellow-orange and easily separable.
They look like this:

Calamondins make excellent container grown specimens and the fruit can be used for a many things. Marmalades, Chutneys, or they can be halved or quartered and served with iced tea, seafood and meats, Some people boil the sliced fruits with cranberries to make a tart sauce. They were commonly used in Florida before limes became plentiful. My favorite use is to substitute it for lime or lemon juice and make gelatin salads, desserts, custard pies or chiffon pie. A Calamondin Meringue Pie is my ultimate favorite.
Calamondins are usually fairly easy to obtain. If you can't find one, check with your Citrus growing friends or look online. Calamondin trees may be easily grown from seeds or as rooted cuttings. You can easily get fruit within 4-5 years from seed and as early as 2 years from cuttings. The flowers are self-fertile and require no cross-pollination. They are as cold-hardy as the Satsuma orange. The tree seems able to tolerate a wide range of soils. There is also the possibility of having ripe fruit and flowers at the same time. Treat these tasty little fruits just as you would any other Citrus tree.
There is even a Variegated Version:

The fruit is variegated when it is young, but will turn orange when ripe.

I have both of these trees and really enjoy the fruits it produces. Hopefully this will entice you to find it and grow one for yourself!
Happy Growing!

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