The Kaffir or Thai lime, Citrus hystrix, is one of the main cooking ingredients in Asian dishes, and makes an attractive plant with its fragrant, glossy green leaves and powerfully perfumed blooms.
Everything about this stunning citrus bush is quite distinctive. The leaves look like two leaves joined together, with one growing from the tip of the other. Just wait until you taste the difference between shop-bought and your own home-grown leaves – you will never go back to shop-bought!
Picking the leaves every few weeks may help encourage growth and crushing the leaves will release the fragrant oils and an intense citrus aroma. The leaves can be used fresh off the tree, or dried or even frozen to retain their intensity.
Naturally compact, the Kaffir lime tree is a little smaller than other citrus plants, reaching just 150cm (5ft) tall with a bushier top, but is easily kept as a small plant for continual harvesting of leaves. Mature plants may also produce fruits, which are little knobbly powerhouses of flavour as the Kaffir lime peel is loaded with fragrant citrus oil, which gives a pleasant tingle when eaten.
Kaffir limes are easy to grow, just needing a slightly higher winter temperature than other citrus, ideally above 12C (54F). During the summer, plants benefit from spending time outside in a well-draining container on your patio, decking or balcony, and then brought back under cover before the first frosts of winter.
Alternatively, grow the Kaffir lime in a well-lit conservatory, a bright room or a heated greenhouse.
A strong, bushy plant is supplied in a 9cm pot. It flowers from May to August, but both blooms and fruit (when produced) can be on the tree at any time of the year.