Kaffir Lime

A friend at our local permaculture group introduced me to shampoo made from the Kaffir lime tree and I decided this plant was a must in the Booyong food forest.

The Kaffir* lime tree (Citrus hystrix) has fruit like a normal lime but are distinguished by a rough bumpy surface. The leaves, which are a lovely dark green, can be used dry or fresh off the tree; and are also used in Asian cuisine, especially soups and curries – so versatile.

Growing – According to Gardening know how the kaffir lime can be grown in the ground and do well in pots, if there is good drainage. The benefit of growing in a pot is that you can bring it inside during the cooler months. It is beneficial to protect them from frost, especially when the tree is young.
They also prefer a sunny position, which often facilitates abundant growth of flowers with fruit. They like water in dry conditions and during the growing season; however, be mindful of root rot and overwatering. Rich compost is also required.

The kaffir lime tree likes a free draining soil and at Booyong our soil is laden with clay and quite dense. Compacted clay soil retains too much water and the lime tree can develop root rot and die. We are in the process of researching soil and looking at deep mulch and other ways to improve the food forest soil.

Care – Feed four times a year with a balanced, organic fertiliser and mulch with straws. Hand-weed around the tree base and remove all young fruit for the first two years – citrus plants need to establish first.

Pests and Diseases – Kaffir lime trees are generally not bothered by many pest problems but may become susceptible to mites or scale. Also keep mulches from touching the stem base to reduce risk of fungal infections.

Companion Planting – Citrus trees, like a lot of fruit trees, fall prey to insects very easily. Marigolds, petunias and borage drives away bad insects. Nasturtium draws aphids to it and away from your citrus tree. Yarrow, dill, and fennel all attract lacewings and ladybugs, which feed on aphids. Lemon balm, parsley, and tansy attract tachinid fly and wasps, which kill harmful caterpillars.

Legumes, such as peas and alfalfa, leach nitrogen into the ground – let them grow then cut them back to the ground.

Propagation – Whilst they can be grown from seed, it’s best to purchase a grafted tree to guarantee fruit.

Pruning – Harvest time is the best time to shape young trees. We will prune the tree to encourage density and keep it a manageable 2 metres high, so we can access the fruit easily. Remove all shoots emerging from below the graft union and remove dead shoots as they emerge.

Harvest – The Kaffir lime is ready to be picked come Autumn and the fruit remains fresh the longer it’s left on the tree. If you pick leaves every few weeks this will help encourage new growth. Pick the outer leaf, leaving the inner leaf to continue feeding the tree. It produces little juice and is favoured for its zest and leaves. Leaves can be frozen for later use which is fantastic, and their fragrant oils will be released if you crush them – the aroma is divine!

Cooking – The lime rind is an essential ingredient in a Thai curry paste – leaves are added to the curry once it is cooking and can also be added to rice. The juice can be used in drinks like gin and tonic, the grated rind for cakes, slices and ice cream, and the fruit for jams and marmalade.

Health benefits: endless and as listed on the Sydney West Permaculture page includes oral health, detoxify the blood, boost skin health, improve digestion, ward off insects, lower inflammation, aid the immune system, reduce stress, improve health of hair and cleanse the home.

Kaffir Lime as an antibacterial home cleaner – Add juice of 1 lime to a bucket of warm water, fill a spray bottle from the bucket and starting from the front door wipe down all wooden surfaces, walls with marks, etc, and use your bucket with its lime juice to wash your wood and tile floors.

Kaffir Lime Shampoo Recipe (Permaculture Sydney West)
1 kg Kaffir limes
1 litre clean water
If you don’t have a Bullet or High-Speed Blender use:
A section of muslin about the size of a towel, and a heavy based, stainless steel saucepan.
Method – In Bullet or high-speed blender
Wash fruit, slice into quarters
Remove seed
Add fruit and enough water to cover well, into a stainless-steel saucepan
Bring to boil, then simmer until fruit are soft, approximately 1.5 to 2 hours
Cool pulp
Add 2 cups water and 1 cup pulp at a time to the Bullet or Blender. Blend 30 seconds, then again for 30 or more seconds until very smooth, add more water if necessary. Repeat until pulp is all used.
Use immediately, or
To store, re-boil the pulp, bottle in sterilised glass jars and keep in bathroom cabinet until ready for use up to 3 months. OR bottle and store in the fridge. Shake well before using.
Method – If using muslin follow steps 1-5
6 Squeeze through muslin, you can adjust with more water if you don’t like your shampoo. as thick. This you shampoo
Use immediately, OR
To store, re-boil the pulp and bottle it in sterilised glass jars and keep in bathroom cabinet until ready for use up to 3 months. OR bottle and store in the fridge. Shake well before using.
Boiling creates a more custard-like fruit pulp, but the cooking time allows you to reduce the water content. By reducing the amount of water, you increase the effectiveness of the shampoo, preventing it from separating. The shampoo acts as a combined hair cleaning agent and a hair conditioner.
NOTE: For those addicted to having shampoo that froths and bubbles you can add 2 tablespoons castile soap to the mix at the blending stage. For dry frizzy hair, use as is. For hair that is oilier, adding a little castile soap is helpful, followed by a dessertspoon vinegar to 1 litre of water as a vinegar rinse, your hair will shine. Adjust the thickness of thin-ness of the shampoo with extra water if desired.