Roots 'n' Shoots: Calamondin: How to Grow – Fruit of the Month

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Calamondin: How to Grow – Fruit of the Month

Calamondin stats/requirements at a glance


Ease of Raising:
3/5
Bi-weekly check-ups
Water:
3-4/5
Every 2nd day to Daily
Sun:
5/5
Full sun
Training:
3/5
Some, pinching out growth or flowers
Fertilise/Feeding:
3/5
Moderate, monthly
Time to Harvest:
5/5
Forever, 5+ months
Frost Hardiness:
4/4
Very hardy, can’t cope with black frost



Uses
Culinary

Most Problematic Nemesis:
Caterpillars

Container Plant:
Yes, ideal for containers


Kumquat
Citrus japonica
Flora Japonica 1870
Kurt Stober's Online Library

Quick intro

The calamondin is a citrus hybrid bred for frost hardiness. It is a truly fantastic member of the citrus family and is a joy to have in the garden. The little sour fruits make excellent additions to jams, jellies and marmalade (or to eat if you like sours ).

History

Not much information is available for the plant from a historic perspective… Its origin is in China and was first introduced to the US in the 1900s and largest cultivations occur in the Philippines.

Science Stuff

The citrus and its hybrids belong to the Rutaceae family, which includes roses, raspberries, and blackberries. The calamondin is a Citrofortunella, an intergenic hybrid between the tangerine (Citrus tangerina) and kumquat (Citrus japonica). Its exact taxonomic placement and species name are still under investigation; as such it sports multiple scientific names (Citrofortunella mitis, Citrofortunella microcarpa or Citrus madurensis) and common names (calamonding, calamondin orange, calamansi, calamandarin, Philippine lime, Panama orange, Chinese orange, musk orange and acid orange). 

Calamondin flower buds
Citrofortunella mitis or C. microcarpa
Growing Calamondins

Most citrus grow well in Mediterranean-type or subtropical climates, they do not fare well in very humid climates and will require additional watering in more arid environments. The increased frost hardiness and moderate drought-tolerance of the calamondin (and other Citrofortunella) is a big advantage in arid or inland regions that are prone to frost.

The plant produces new growth in spring followed by flowers. The fruit develop and remain green for most of the year and all the fruits will ripen towards late winter for one large batch of calamondin fruits. Once the tree has acclimated and established in the garden it is a decent producer, ours produced a kilogram worth of calamondins last winter.

Calamondin flower
Citrofortunella mitis or C. microcarpa

You can fertilise the citrus about once a month or when the water in the pot saucer runs clear (this is usually a good indication for some fertilisation, because brown pot water is indicative of nutrients in the water). Some minimal pruning will be needed to keep the general shape, clear out dead or damaged parts and to promote new growth.  



Pests and disease

Citrus swallowtail caterpillars can be a problem – just be on the lookout for black and orange caterpillars on your plant, they will eat both leaves and fruit rinds. You can dispose of them or collect them to feed for the birds or chickens! Here is my full Pest Profile on this caterpillar (and some others).

Citrus Swallowtail Caterpillars (immatures)
Papillo demodocus



Other Calamondin Tips

I grow a ginger mint in the same pot as the calamondin – it was a bit of an experiment to see whether the scale (or their ant farmers) would want to be in a pot full of strong smelling mint. I haven’t had any scale problems on the calamondin thus far, whether this is because of the mint or the resistance of the plant I am not sure, but I thought it would be worth the mention .


Harvesting & Storing

The plants produce perfect and imperfect flowers which have a lovely strong aroma. The fruits are harvested once fully coloured (light orange) and we eat them peel on, but the peels come off very easily. The rind can be bitter and the fruit is more sour than sweet and they have a very aromatic flavour to them akin to the flower, making them ideal for adding flavour to desserts (icing). The fruits will keep for a while (about two weeks) once picked, but it is better to leave them on the plant until needed and picked well before spring. 

Calamondin fruits from development to harvest
Citrofortunella mitis or C. microcarpa

Propagation

The calamondin as most other citrus can be propagated through grafting or cuttings in spring and autumn. Seeds can be unpredictable and some take up to a month to germinate – I am not sure whether the calamondin seeds will be fertile considering that they are a hybrid.

My Calamondin

My calamondin has been in the garden for two years now, producing flowers and fruits during its first spring. It produced a handful of fruits and followed the second season with nearly 1 kilogram of fruits which were used to make a mixed citrus marmalade. It is a very easy going plant and when in flowers it fills the garden with its amazing smell. 

Calamondin tree
Citrofortunella mitis or C. microcarpa

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