Monday, December 23, 2013

Thai lime time

Just in time for a summer of Thai-style salads, our Thai limes are ripening so nicely on their little potted tree that I want to pause for a moment and admire them. As is the case whenever I post a frangipani photo, with these Thai limes I'm sad that I can't include a 'scratch-and-sniff' widget on my blog so you can experience the amazing fragrance they possess. There's nothing else like them.

Sadly, they have a face only their mother could love, all
wrinkled and disfigured like they're a green gargoyle.
And cut one open and the disappointment continues: lacking
in juice, filled with tiny seeds, it's not a lime for squeezing.
One saving grace is that they're still cute when they're babies.
And here's the Thai lime compared with its silky smooth, juicy
cousin from Tahiti. I think every cook's backyard ought to have
both limes growing (well, if your climate is right for them, that is),
as I couldn't do without either ingredient in my kitchen.
With the Thai lime (also called a makrut lime or a kaffir lime)
it's the grated green skin which adds so much flavour to salad
dressings, stir-fries, soups and other dishes. Its fragrance is so
amazingly spicy and tropical as you grate it finely.
These are the quirky 'double' leaves of the Thai lime, with a
waist in the middle. Naturally enough their flavour and fragrance
is similar (but not identical) to the grated rind. Depending on
the recipe, you can slice these leaves into fine shreds, or go
one step further and chop the find shreds into very fine bits.
For the record, the Thai lime is Citrus hystrix. It's a small-growing tree that usually doesn't grow much bigger than 1 to 1.5 metres high. Being a small plant, it's one of the best citrus to grow in pots, but its branches are a bit thorny, so you need to be careful where you place the pot so it doesn't hurt any little people playing near it or anyone else just walking past it.

It's a typical citrus in that it loves sunshine plus regular watering and feeding. Here in my Sydney garden it seems a bit less fussy to grow than my Tahiti lime and my Eureka lemon, both of which are regularly targeted by sap-sucking bronze orange and spined citrus bugs, plus aphids. The Thai lime isn't such a crock in those ways, but the citrus leaf miner which causes unsightly, squiggly markings in the leaves, does get stuck into it. I use an organic horticultural oil spray (sold here as either Eco-Oil) to prevent the leaf miner attacks, but you need to reapply it regularly to win that little battle.

FInally, a little recipe for a Thai salad dressing, featuring both my limes. It's very simple:
1 tablespoon Tahiti lime juice
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon grated rind of Thai lime
1 pinch sugar

Combine in jar, shake. Pour just before serving. The water 'softens' the bite of the lime juice and fish sauce and the sugar is important for balance. You can of course add chopped chilli to taste, and include chopped Thai lime leaves in the salad greens component of your salad.


With Christmas almost here our Australian-style festive fun this year is going to include prawns, oysters and other seafood, plus salads on the side and lots of fruit to finish. However you choose to enjoy the season, both Pam and I hope our small band of blog readers enjoy a merry, safe and happy Christmas, and a prosperous New Year. 

Pam and I are looking forward to keep everything rolling smoothly along into 2014, after a 2013 which has been very eventful – including my beloved 'Burke's Backyard' magazine closing down after 14 great years, and Pam doing more (successful) art exhibitions than ever before. It's been a tumultuous and busy year for us but the good news is that it has all turned out OK by year's end. We're looking forward to 2014 being a better year, and that's what I wish for all of you, too.

1 comment:

Padaek said...

Belated Merry Xmas to you and Pam, although the festive season is far from over. At least the babies are cute, so true. I was in a local Bunnings garden center and saw many pots of beautiful healthy sturt desert pea plants in bloom and they reminded me of Pam's art. Wishing you both the best. See you in 2014! :)