The first time I went to Greece, it was in late spring and we arrived late on a stormy night. In the morning the storm had passed and I opened the balcony doors to a glorious view of a shimmering mediterranean sea and a powerful aroma that I did not recognize. I discovered that it was the blossom from a nearby lemon orchard. Many subsequent vacations in these islands later, where dinner almost every night was a grilled fish or a heap of battered Kalimari drenched in lemon juice and its not difficult to understand that lemons, to me, are azure seas and the mediteranean.
When I came across a vendor at the night market here with boxes of lemons on sale, I asked him where they were from and he said 'Ipoh', a city towards the north of the country. I knew vaguely of Ipoh's reputation for Pomelos, a popular citrus fruit particularly around festive days so it sort of made sense, but local lemons? Didn't know there was such a thing. I bought some, they were inexpensive, somewhat greener, larger and not quite as pretty as supermarket lemons but they were juicy and made an excellent lemonade.
Small Kasturi Limes or Citrus microcarpa are a popular ingredient here, and the leaves of Kaffir Limes Citrus Hystrix although synonomous with Thailand and Tom Yam are also used to flavor certain curries here and in Indonesia. Both are indigenous to this region and a little research reveals that the citrus genus is believed to have originated from South East Asia. My perceptions of citrus as a mediterranean thing are now being revised to a tropical thing.
My neighbour is a terrific jam maker. My discovery of this was a marmalade of hers made from kaffir limes, a lime too bitter to eat but goodness is it good as a marmalade. A couple of weeks ago she offered me a jar of a different marmalade, one she'd made from lemons from her brothers garden, a local type she said as well as some red citrus fruits from a bush in her garden. I was of course intrigued about these ingredients and she volunteered to not not only run home and get me some of the uncooked fruit but also a small plant of the red fruit. The longer lemon is pictured above in the top left corner, the rest are from the night market. The mystery plant is Limeberry Triphasia Trifolia which is a Rutaceae related to citrus. With this in hand I now have a nice selection of citrus growing in the garden.
I have a mature lime tree in my yard, Citrus Microcarpa, that came with the house and provides a continous supply of fruit. I wait on orange that I bought unlabeled and planted a year ago to get going and my Kaffir lime has, incredously, fruited - see picture. I say incredulous because it has been slow growing and notoriously difficult and tempermental say local gardener friends. I also lucked out on finding a variegated form at the farmers market. I'm going to try growing the seed from both that longer lemon and the Ipoh lemon and am perusing a catalogue of Citrus to see what else I would like add to this expanding collection. Definitely the strange Buddha's hand, which I see occasionally for sale and I know the musk lime Citrofortunella Mitis grows well here as I have seen mature trees at a local fruit farm.
Gardening with citrus, who knew that would happen. I have small trees in the ground and in pots in the gravel garden which is looking, and we go full circle here, a little mediterranean-ish.