We have two of these trees in our Italian Garden and get questions about this little fruit on a near daily basis. Are those kumquats? Can I taste one of those things? I’ve never seen anything quite like this, what is it? I want one of these trees, where do I get one?
The photo is of a fruit tree called Calamondin. The fruit, of the same name, is also referred to as an acid orange, Chinese orange, or Panama orange, and is a little bigger than a quarter. This tree was developed in southeast Asia, where it is very popular, especially in the Philippines. It is a cross between either tangerines or Mandarin oranges and the small oval kumquat. The exact origins of this, and most citrus, is unknown because it was developed so long ago.
This little fruit looks and smells great, but it is not so good for snacking on. The most common use of the calamondin fruit is to flavor foods and drinks. The peel is sweet, but the fruit itself has a very bitter or sour taste on its own. Putting the whole fruit in your mouth can lead to a very confusing taste. However, there are many uses for the calamondin orange. It makes a great jam or a lemonade type beverage, and the fruit can actually be frozen whole and used as ice cubes in teas or ginger ale. It can also be used to make a liqueur that is often combined with vodka and sugar.
In the US, the calamondin is typically grown as an ornamental plant. It is very sensitive to frost, so it only grows well in the warmer climates of Florida, California, south Texas, and Hawaii. However, if you live in a colder climate, you can keep the plant potted and bring it indoors in the winter.