Citrus hystrix., the Kaffir or makrut lime or papeda, is a small tree in the Papeda subgenus of the Rutaceae (citrus family). Members of this subgenus are characterized by fruits that are inedible, even when ripe, and contain acrid oil droplets in the juice vesicles (pulp cells). Thus, this species is used primarily for its leaves, which are used fresh or dried as an herb to flavor Asian dishes, including soups, stews, curries, and sauces. It is common in the cuisine of Thailand, and provides the characteristic flavor of tom yam soup. The zest and rind may also be used, but the fruit itself has almost no juice, and is primarily used for traditional medicinal purposes. (The lime that is sold fresh or for its juice is from related species, including C. aurantiifolia., the key lime, and C. latifolia, the Persian or Tahitian lime.)
C. hystrix typically grows 3 to 6 m (9.75 to 19.5 ft) tall. The aromatic leaves, which are evergreen, have a distinctive structure, with a winged petiole (leaf stem) that is similar in size to the leaf itself, giving the appearance a laterally divided leaf. The globose flower buds open into fragrant flowers with 4 to 5 petals and around 30 stamens; petals are white with reddish or pink on the outside. The sub-globose to ellipsoid fruit is small, from 3 to 5 cm (1 to 2 in) wide by 5 to 7 cm (2 to 3 in) long--similar in size to slightly larger than a kumquat--with a rough skin with numerous small oil glands, and ripens to lemon yellow.
C. hystrix originated in southeast Asia, but its precise native range has been obscured by a long history of cultivation, along with hybridization. The species and its various hybrids are now cultivated widely throughout the region, from Sri Lanka east to the Phillipines.
(Flora of China 2012, van Wyk 2005)
- Flora of China. 2012. Vol 11. 3. Citrus hystrix Candolle, Cat. Pl. Horti Monsp. 19, 97. 1813. Accessed on-line 12 March 2012 from http://efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=2&taxon_id=242313263.
- van Wyk, B.-E. 2005. “Citrus hystrix.” Food Plants of the World: An Illustrated Guide. Portland, OR: Timber Press. P. 139.
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