In the United States, calamondins are typically grown in pots for ornamental use. However, calamondins are enjoyed as a food around the world. Many Americans have come to love the calamondin, long treasured in China, India, Taiwan, Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines. Although the juice is highly acidic, the peel is actually sweet -- and the entire calamondin is edible.
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History and Classification
It is commonly accepted that the calamondin originated in China and was imported to the United States at the end of the 19th century. They are often confused with kumquats, another small but elongated citrus fruit. Dr. W. T. Swingle, a noted botanist formerly with the United States Department of Agriculture, considered it a hybrid of the kumquat and the mandarin orange. The scientific name has changed several times; most recently it was classified as Citrus madurensis Loureiro. Here in the United States, you are most likely to find calamondins growing in Florida, Hawaii, Texas and California.
Nutritional Facts and Description
Calamondins are actually very small -- only 1 inch in diameter. Like other citrus fruits, the calamondin is is a segmented fruit full of juice and seeds inside a thin, smooth peel that is reminiscent of a tangerine. One calamondin contains 12 calories and only a trace of fat. It provides, on average, 1.2 grams of dietary fiber, 57 IU of vitamin A, 7 mg of vitamin C, 8.4 mg of calcium and 37 mg of potassium.
Cooking with Calamondins
You can substitute calamondin juice in almost any recipe that calls for lemon or lime juice. Recipes that use calamondins are plentiful on the Internet. You can find calamondin recipes for pies, cakes, nut breads, puddings, gelatin salads, marmalades, preserves, jams and chutneys. Many cooks suggest pairing calamondins with other fruits, such as kumquats -- another little-known edible citrus fruit -- papayas or even cranberries. Some people use calamondin as an ingredient in soups or as a marinade or sauce for chicken, fish and seafood. For instance, you can make a calamondin-cranberry sauce to serve with roasted turkey. Some people also use calamondins to make tea and soda. In the Philippines, the juice of the calamondin fruit is pasteurized and bottled commercially.
Grow Your Own
If you live in a climate where you can grow citrus, you may consider growing your own calamondins, because they are not typically found in traditional supermarkets. The calamondin tree produces fruit year-round and is cold-hardy to 20 degrees F. It takes a full year for the fruit to ripen; wait for the fruit to turn yellow or yellow orange before harvesting. It is preferable to clip or cut the fruit from the stem as pulling damages the peel and can result in early spoiling. After harvesting, store in the refrigerator for up to one week.