Fancy A Nice Calamansi?

 In Garden-to-table, Healthy eating, Therapeutic chef, Urban homesteading

For three years I’ve had a little Calamondin citrus tree growing in a pot in my backyard. This year was the first that it bore any fruit and was the first time I had an opportunity to taste it. Here is what I can report: The flesh was quite tart while the skin was on the sweeter side. Eaten whole, they provided a sweet-sour burst of flavor that made me pucker something fierce. The novelty of that wore off quickly so I began pondering other ways to put them to use…

I decided to take one from the hipster playbook and make a shrub. A Calamansi & Lemon Verbena Shrub to be precise. The tangarine-meets-lime tartness of the fruit tempered with generous amounts of honey, balanced with the subtle perfume of lemon verbena, and then tarted up again with the addition of a mild vinegar makes this a perfect summer shrub to enjoy splashed into sparkling water or in a refreshing cocktail concoction (I’m thinking something with mezcal but those who know me well know I’m pretty much always thinking about something with mezcal).

The ingredients for the shrub–minus the vinegar–are pictured below.

cala shrub ingredients

Calamondin, lemon verbena, and a jar of recently-harvested honey

For those of you unfamiliar with the Calamansi, here’s what Wikipedia has to say about its myriad aliases “Calamondin is called by many names, including: calamonding, calamondin orange, calamansi, calamandarin, golden lime, kalamunding, kalamansi, Philippine lime, Panama orange, Chinese orange, musk orange and acid orange.”

While not commonly grown in the U.S outside of Florida (again, according to Wikipedia), it is widely grown in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia where it is used to flavor food and drinks. A squeeze or two on fresh fish is said to effectively mask the fishy smell, which is pretty bonus in my book.

I couldn’t find any information on the health benefits and/or medicinal uses of Calamondin, specifically (although there’s plenty about citrus in general), in my usual resources (The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia or Encyclopedia of Healing Foods) but the handful of mentions I found on the interwebs say Calamondin can be helpful in relieving constipation, clearing up respiratory issues and allergies, reducing inflammation, and even alleviating the itch of insect bites. For now I’m content to use it in shrubs but may see fit to branch out to experiment with other uses when next year’s crop is ready to be picked.

Also worth noting is that since the rinds are high in essential oil content, muddling them releases an aromatherapeutic  burst of citrus-y goodness that will lift you out of any foul mood you might be experiencing. And let’s be honest, this election cycle seems to inspire foul moods so just keep muddling until, oh, say, 2020. Just muddle and breathe, muddle and breathe. Then experiment with cocktails. And, for the love of all that is citrus, send me the recipe. Please.

Calamansi & Lemon Verbena Shrub Syrup


Yield: 1 quart


15 minutes


Macerate for 24 hours

  • 2 lbs. fresh, ripe calamansi (also called calamondin)+
  • Leaves from 4 8-inch long sprigs lemon verbena
  • 1 1/4 cups honey
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup Italian honey vinegar or Champagne vinegar++

+ If you can’t find Calamansi, you can substitute kumquats.

++ Any mild vinegar will do and, in a pinch, a good quality apple cider vinegar would work as well.

  1. Cut the fruit in half. Squeeze juice from the halves into a small nonreactive bowl. Reserve juice. Toss the rinds into a large nonreactive bowl and add the lemon verbena leaves.
  2. Using a cocktail muddler, large wooden spoon, or potato masher, muddle the fruit and leaves to press out additional juice and to release the essential oils from the rinds and leaves.
  3. Add honey and the reserved juice into the bowl with the muddled rinds and stir to combine. Add in the vinegar a quarter cup at a time, tasting after each addition before adding more.
  4. Cover the bowl with a plate or clean towel and allow to macerate for 24 hours in the fridge or on a counter.
  5. Taste and adjust by adding in additional vinegar or honey. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large glass bowl (ideally one with a pour spout), using a wooden spoon to press out juices.
  6. Pour into a bottle or jar and store in the fridge to use in cocktails, with sparking water, or over ice cream!

cala square 3cala square 4cala square 5shrub square

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