Calamondin or Kalamansi?

So last winter I got very jazzed about exotic citrus varieties, especially all of the various mandarin/kumquat crosses. Their size seemed to make them perfect for muddling in a cocktail glass, capturing both the juice and the aromatic oils from the rinds. It turns out there are dozens of these hybrids, many of which originated in China. The only one I could find for sale, however, was the mandarinquat, which looks like a rather oversized kumquat but which is a bit sweeter. I made several very decent gin cocktails using these, mostly based on the template provide by Jimmy Patrick’s Madagascar Orchid.

The hybrid which I really wanted to find was the kalamansi which is sometimes called a Philippine lime because of its popularity in that country. However, despite bay area’s large Filipino population, I could not find these for sale in any of the many asian markets in Oakland and San Francisco. Possibly it was “out of season” though it seems to be one of those citrus varieties which bear and ripen fruit all year long. It also occurred to me that California might simply impose some kind of embargo on this fruit for agricultural reasons. The closest I came was a frozen kalamansi concentrate whose first ingredient was corn syrup. Fail. I also started looking for it under the other names it apparently sometimes goes by: calamondin or kalamondin.

In late spring I had a sudden brainstorm and headed down to a large local plant nursery. They had a large selection of dwarf citrus and there, among the conventional lemons, oranges, and grapefruit, I found a calamondin. It didn’t have any fruit on it yet but it was early enough in the season that I figured there was a good chance it would come into bloom. After some travails with chlorosis (leaves turning yellow) and an application of a proper fertilizer, my little calamondin bloomed and proceeded to set a couple dozen fruit.

As the fruit grew and the summer progressed, I continued to do research. One thing which became clearer and clearer to me is that the calamondin I had growing on my little tree, were not the same as kalamansi. For one thing, my fruit were much smaller and flatter than the pictures I’d seen of kalamansi, which are round. Second, as the fruit started to ripen, my calamondin were turning orange while ripe kalamansi are green, sometimes with orange streaks. Finally, after I harvested a few ripe calamondin, I discovered they are seedless whereas kalamansi always have seeds in them. (Here’s a link to a photo of an actual kalamansi, for contrast.)

So, while I am now enjoying fresh calamondin in my cocktails, I am still on the hunt for fresh kalamansi. Maybe this year?

[UPDATE: since drafting this post, I found that Berkley Bowl is selling calamondin, which is great as my little tree has only produced a handful of fruit thus far. The Bowl (as locals often call it) is also offering mandarinquats and Fukushu-quats. I’ll be trying those, too, before they disappear.]


“These aren’t the citrus you’re looking for.”

3 small calamondin, quartered
2 strong dashes Scrappy’s chocolate bitters
1/2 oz. Navan vanilla cognac liqueur
2 oz. Evan Williams Single Barrel bourbon
2 barspoons agave nectar

Put the calamondins, the bitters and the Navan in a mixing glass.
Muddle firmly, pressing the calamondins to extract all the juice from each segment.
Add the bourbon and the agave nectar.
Shake hard with cracked ice.
Fine strain into a chilled coupe.

NOTES: Try with a few drops of chili tincture for a lovely contrast against the sweet/tart calamondin.

Scurvy Bane

3 small calamondin, quartered
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1/2 oz. St. Elizabeth allspice dram
1 barspoon simple syrup
1 1/2 oz. Smith and Cross Jamaican pot still rum
3/4 oz. Lillet Blanc

Put the calamondins, the bitters, the dram and the simple syrup in a mixing glass.
Muddle firmly, pressing the calamondins to extract all the juice from each segment.
Add the rum and the Lillet Blanc.
Shake hard with cracked ice.
Fine strain into a chilled coupe.


12 Responses to “Calamondin or Kalamansi?”

  1. Heck yes! testing out exotic citrus!!! I’m all for it. When can I try one?

  2. Hey! no link to the madagascar orchid? Or have I not posted that?

  3. Hi Jimmy! Glad you found the post. I could only find a link to the Madagascar Sour which I guess was a predecessor to the Orchid. If you’ve got the recipe posted someplace, send me the URL and I’ll be glad to add the link. – Michael

  4. […] Last summer I purchased a few exotic dwarf citrus trees: calamondin (which I’ve previously written about), kaffir lime (from which I’ve made a very pungent tincture) and chinotto, a variety of […]

  5. I stumbled around here after searching for calamondin recipes You included a good photo up there and have good observations regarding calamondin and calamansi difference. Nice read

  6. It’s 2014 now and I’m wondering if you were able to try calamansi? I live in Toronto and I always buy 100% pure calamansi extract for $3.50/bottle in the Asian grocery across my residence. They also sell the frozen calamansi fruit but I find 10 pieces for $2.99 quite expensive. If you’re interested, I’ll list it in Ebay.

  7. Martha Miller Says:

    So, what I really want is the Philippine calamansi. Any luck finding where I can purchase this? Hoping and thanks.

  8. I have a Kalamansi tree which I bought from Home Depot in Milpitas and it was clearly marked Kalamansi. I’ve had this tree for 7 years now and I know for a fact that it is definitely a Kalamansi tree.

  9. One of the things I’ve (finally) learned about citrus is that in warm, more humid climates, the fruit will remain green even when it’s ripe. This explains why photos of the fruit from the Philippines almost always show it with a green skin while in more temperate climates it will turn orange.

  10. Greg McNeal Says:

    As a preteen in San Diego, neighbors would hire me to take care of their yard when they went on vacation. The wife was a Philippine national. They had a Calmondine tree and my family would relish these for iced tea in the summer. Ever since I have kept a potted Calmondine. All my other citrus have failed to thrive, but the Calmondine flowers and fruits all year long. My current one here in Oakland is variegated with streaks of white in the leaves and streaks of green on the peel. Great in gin & tonics. These do have seeds, very sour when ripe and aromatic like a mandarin orange. I’m also a huge fan of lime-quats which my friend grows in Davis, Ca.

  11. Thanks for the reply, Greg.

    I’ve in fact seen this variegated cultivar of Calamondin for sale at Berkeley Bowl.

  12. Hi. I’m from Philippines and calamansi actually becomes orange when very ripe and it loses its sourness but not so sweet. It is more famouse in green and yellow because we only use it for its tang, so orange one’s aren’t very usefull. Btw they only become orange colored when they are ripen on the tree.

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