Lately I was so disappointed when I was looking for kaffir lime leaves in the Asian groceries here in Melbourne. They were much larger, almost double size from the ones that I used to know in Indonesia. Then I noticed that these leaves had different smell. To me the smell was more like ordinary citrus leaves. Although they were also double lobed, they were definitely lacking of that unforgettable aroma.
The kaffir lime leaves aka ‘daun jeruk purut’ (Indonesian name) that I used to know in Indonesia were highly aromatic. When you crush them the whole room will be full of the delightful fragrance. Actually, this specific fragrance gives some of Indonesian cuisine a certain taste and aroma and you cannot change it by using different kind of citrus leaves.
Out of disappointment, I tried to look for kaffir lime tree to grow that were sold in nurseries and markets. All of them had very large leaves and less specific kaffir lime aroma. Then one day, I saw an Asian man in Caribbean market sold kaffir lime plants that had small leaves, very thorny branches and the most important that the foliage had that of Indonesian jeruk purut smell. Actually there were no labels on the plants and I asked him if they were kaffir lime. He said that they were good variety of kaffir lime and you could tell by the many thorns. Yes, when I picked one leaf and I crushed it with my fingers, the unmistakably fragrance filled my nostrils.
There must be some different varieties of kaffir lime trees (Citrus hystrix). I don’t know how many, but I noticed two different kinds.
- One that has larger double lobed leaves, less aromatic and the tree has few or almost no thorns. Robust and grows very quickly.
- The other one has smaller double lobed leaves that are smoother on the surface and have specific ‘jeruk purut’ fragrance, very thorny branches and grows less vigorous.
Anyway, I am so glad that now I have my own jeruk purut tree which is to me is the real kaffir lime. The same kaffir lime leaves that have unmistakably ‘daun jeruk purut’ fragrance like the ones that we have in Java, Indonesia.
Our friend in Coburg has the less fragrant Kaffir lime tree, hers also has bigger foliage, hardly any thorns, different smell and it is growing much quicker that ours. Both her tree and ours are still young and never bear fruits so far.
Note: The name Citrus ‘hystrix’ points to the fact that this citrus species is ‘thorny’. Hystrix in Latin means porcupine-like which is prickly.
Here is some comparisons of the two different varieties of Kaffir Limes (Citrus Hystrix):
17/10/2014: Kaffir Lime fruit:
Interesting links to read about Kaffir lime:
My thanks to Sub for the confirmation about the existence of 2 different Kaffir Limes varieties from Balitjestro (Citrus and Subtropical Fruit Plants Research Center) in Indonesia:
It is confirmed that there is not only 1 variety of Kaffir Lime. Farmers in Indonesia identify at least 2 varieties which are: commercial Kaffir Lime and Kaffir Lime with large thorns. Farmers do not prefer the ones with large thorns as they are harder to harvest and to maintain, and also the leaves are smaller though they are more aromatic. For this reason, Kaffir Lime variety with large thorns is hard to find nowadays.
Jeruk Purut ternyata tidak hanya 1 jenis. Petani mengenal setidaknya ada 2 jenis, yaitu jeruk purut komersial umumnya dan jeruk purut dimana batangnya berduri besar. Petani memilih untuk tidak mengembangkan jeruk purut yang berduri besar karena duri yang besar menyulitkan panen dan perawatan, ukuran daunnya pun kecil meskipun aromanya lebih kuat. Sehingga jeruk purut jenis ini saat ini sulit ditemukan.
To conclude this writing:
How interesting that now, even in Indonesia the larger foliage and less fragrant Kaffir Lime variety has also become commercial growers preference. I just hope that the true old variety of Kaffir lime that is thorny with very specific fragrance will still be available in nurseries for home gardeners to grow. Don’t lose the real thing!!!!