Citrofortunella microcarpa is a shrub or small tree growing to 3–6 metres (9.8–20 ft). The fruit of the calamondin resembles a small, round lime, usually 25-35mm in diameter, but sometimes up to 45mm. The center pulp and juice is the orange color of a tangerine with a very thin orange peel when ripe.
Its cultivation has spread throughout Southeast Asia, India, Hawaii, the West Indies, and Central and North America. The plant is characterized by wing-like appendages on the leaf stalks and white or purplish flowers. Its fruit has either a spongy or leathery rind with a juicy pulp that is divided into sections.
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The Calamondin bears a small citrus fruit that is used to flavor foods and drinks. Despite its outer appearance and its aroma, the taste of the fruit itself is quite sour, although the peel is sweet. Eating a whole fruit has a surprise with the combination of sweet and sour. Calamondin marmalade can be made in the same way as orange marmalade. Like other citrus fruits, the calamondin is high in vitamin C.
The fruit can be frozen whole and used as ice cubes in beverages such as tea, soft drinks, water, and cocktails. The juice is extracted by crushing the whole fruit, and makes a flavorful drink similar to lemonade. A liqueur can be made from the whole fruits, in combination with vodka and sugar. In Asian cuisines, the juice is used to season fish, fowl, and pork. It is commonly used as a condiment in Filipino dishes like pancit. Calamondin halves or quarters may be served with iced tea, seafood and meats, the acid juice is often employed like lime or lemon juice to make gelatin salads or desserts, custard pie or chiffon pie. In the Philippines, the extracted juice, with the addition of gum tragacanth as an emulsifier, is pasteurized and bottled commercially.
The fruit is used in local recipes in northern Indonesia, especially around the North Sulawesi region. Fish are spritzed with the juice prior to cooking to eliminate the "fishy" smell. Kuah asang ("sour soup") is a regional clear fish broth made with calamondin juice.
In Florida, the fruit is used in its fully ripe form with a more mature flavor profile than the unripe version. Tasters note elements of apricot, tangerine, lemon, pineapple and guava. The peel is so thin, each fruit must be hand snipped from the tree to avoid tearing. The entire fruit minus the stems and seeds can be used. It is hand processed and pureed or juiced and used in various products such as Calamondin cake, coulis and jam. The peels can be dehydrated and used as gourmet flavoring with salt and sugar. The fruit was popular with Floridian home bakers in cake form from the 1920s to 1950s. Once women joined the workforce, the labor intensive nature of processing the fruit caused its diminished use. Now that commercially made products and fruit are available, it is experiencing a resurgence.
Calamondin has several alternative medicinal uses. When rubbed on insect bites, the juice is said to relieve the itching and reduce the irritation. It can also be used as a natural acne medicine or taken orally as cough medicine (often mixed with green tea), and is a natural anti-inflammatory. Forconstipation the juice is warmed and diluted with water. It bleaches freckles and helps to clear up acne vulgaris and pruritus vulvae. In Malaysia, it is used as an antidote for poison, and a poultice of pandanus leaves mixed with salt and the juice of Citrus microcarpa, can be used to treat abscesses. In Peninsular Malaysia, it is combined with pepper to help expel phlegm. It is also used in skin and hair care products.