From the fruits to the leaves, kaffir lime or better known as jeruk purut, is a versatile citrus that can be added to dishes or used as a boost of vitamin C during flu seasons. What differentiates it from other citrus fruits is its distinctive small, round and bumpy skin. Along with its unique leaves that look like two leaves joined together. The fruit of kaffir lime is usually used to remove the fishy smell when cooking fish. It also added a tangy and sour taste to dishes. While its leaves can be used as a spice in curry or soup.
Planting citrus fruits such as kaffir lime at home in sunny Indonesia is very beneficial. Like other citrus plants, when cultivated right, as it gets older the number of fruit produced only increases giving you an abundance of kaffir lime. Ready to plant your kaffir lime at home? Here are little tips and guides to help you started.
How to cultivate kaffir lime at home
The first step in cultivating kaffir lime is to choose a planting space. Whether a pot or direct soil in your backyard, make sure that it has exposure to sunlight and a proper drainage system. The soil itself needs to be enriched with nutrients and have a pH level of 5.5-6.5. If the conditions of the soil are lacking, then a soil treatment with compost or organic fertilizer can be done to fix the property of the soil before planting.
Next up is to prepare supplies such as fertilizer, loose soil if planting in a pot, pruners, and most importantly your choice of seeds. Seeds or starters can come in a few different ways. You can start with seedlings. This process requires tending the seed from previously eaten or used fruits into sprouts by yourself. This process can take a few weeks, starting from cleaning and drying the seed to planting it to the ground and waiting for it to sprout after 2-3 weeks of planting in the soil. But keep in mind that this method will not give you the same kaffir lime variety as the ones you’ve eaten. Seeds in fruits are produced by sexual reproduction and they receive genes from females and males to form. This reproduction process may produce a new variant that may taste different or have different characteristics.
This is why, generally it’s better to use seeds that are available from stores, usually in the form of a starter plant. Starter plants are young plants that are the result of vegetative propagation. It is usually achieved by grafting stems from an already mature producing tree. This process ensures that the variety of fruit produced is the same each time.
After a seed is acquired, the painting can start. Here are some guides on planting the seeds to the ground.
- Make a planting hole about the same size as the polybag of the seeds. Or if planting in a pot, then fill the pot ⅓ of the way with soil as a start.
- If the seeds have many leaves and stems, consider pruning the number of leaves and stems to reduce evaporation when planting.
- Water the seed in the polybag and make a little tear to give room for roots to expand in the medium. Careful not to damage the roots.
- Put the seed in the center of the planting hole and cover it with soil. Padded them a little to ensure no shifting.
- Water as necessary.
At the early stage of planting, watering can be done daily or weekly. This depends on the weather and the medium of planting. If using a pot, then watering can be done more frequently because the limited volume of media in the pot will make it dry quickly especially, during the dry season. When in doubt, feel the soil around the plant. If you stick your finger in and a few soil sticks to your finger, then maybe there’s still enough water. Other methods that to check are by scraping the soil with your fingertips. If the soil has dried an inch below the soil surface, give the plant some much-needed watering.
Fertilizing kaffir lime and fertilizer recommendations
Fertilizer acts as the food for plants to grow and produce. On a young kaffir lime plant, it’s better to hold off on the fertilizer until it grows into about 18 cm. After that, fertilizer should be applied around the plants less than a meter high. Make sure that the fertilizer does not touch the stems or roots directly. Fertilizing kaffir lime should be done three times per year or about once every four months. During the winter or rainy season, in early spring, and again in late summer or dry season.
Keep in mind the type of fertilizer also determines how often to fertilize. Nutrients from organic fertilizer are released more slowly than chemical fertilizer and may need to be applied more frequently. If using an NPK or nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium fertilizer, a ratio of 8-8-8 can be used when plants are younger and not producing fruit. But when the plant is starting to produce, shift to fertilizer with a higher concentration of nitrogen to help the formation of fruits.
Tips for harvesting kaffir limes
When done right, typically kaffir lime plants bear fruit in the first year and continue to increase as they grow older. Harvesting can be done after the fruit is mature enough, around two weeks after the flowering period. Keep in mind that most lime will get increasingly yellow as it ripens, and when left too long in the tree, it will shrivel and fall. You want to harvest the kaffir lime when it’s still green. One way to know for sure if it’s ready to harvest is simply by gently twisting the fruit from its stem and cutting it open. The fruit should be juicy on the inside, if not, then you’ll have to wait a little longer.