Botanical name: Citrus limetta Risso
Ideal location & conditions: Full sun to partial shade
Size after 5 years: 2m x 1m This dense tree is a strong growing citrus and perfect for screening
Soil: Free draining soil based compost such as John Innes No.3 with additional grit and stone
Flower colour: Pure white with yellow centres
Flowering period: July - October
Fruit harvest period: The very heavy crops of medium sized fruit are ready to enjoy in December through until April
Now, I have a friend that peels a lemon and then eats it just like an orange! When I asked him how he can do that, he says that he doesn’t find the taste acidic at all in fact “it's really rather sweet” he says. Well, it takes all sorts I suppose!
For most of us though, the taste of a lemon is very acidic and of course, that is where the attraction and beauty lie when we come to experience its taste in dishes and drinks. However, most of us would agree that eating a whole fresh lemon would cause us to pull some very odd faces!
When we come to try Citrus limetta Risso, it’s a very different story (and taste!). To all intents and purposes Limettas look just like a small lemon. But (wait for it...), if you squeeze the juice or eat a segment, then you are in for a big surprise. The taste, whilst it is certainly lemon in flavour, doesn't taste acidic. For some of us the flavour is a little more lime-like and for that reason, common alternative names for this variety of citrus are the Sweet Lemon or Sweet Lime.
Beware though, if you squeeze this lovely fruit in the morning as part of your new super-fit and healthy life-style and then the phone rings, if you chat for half an hour, you will find that your lovely glass of freshly squeezed Sweet Lemon has turned acidic! It’s then a “hold your nose” job as you swallow! No idea why that happens but believe me it does! There is of course a simple answer. Let the bloomin’ phone ring!
In India, where the variety is grown quite extensively, it is known as Musambi. It is used to treat cold and flu symptoms, as well as a large range of bone related conditions. It has very high vitamin C levels and has been given the nickname of the ‘Cold-Killer!
It all sounds too good to be true, so growing one in your garden, however small is a must, especially as they are most prolific croppers. And remember that old adage………….. “A Musambi a day keeps the doctor away”.
Interesting fact - When you see “Risso” mentioned as part of the Latin name of a plant, then it is in deference to Giuseppe Antoine Risso (1777-1845) a French naturalist that lived in Nice and wrote a definitive book on Citrus species, Histoire Naturelle des Orangers which was published in 1820. Without doubt, a bit of a star! He has a dolphin named after him too! Who knew?!
Five reasons to plant a Citrus limetta Risso:
• It doesn't taste acidic (just don't leave it too long to drink the juice after squeezing it!)
• Very high in Vitamin C properties and is known for keeping colds and flu at bay
• It's a prolific cropper!
• Enjoys full sun or partial shade so is very suitable for many gardens
• A dolphin also shares its name!