Citrus

Posted on Jan 6, 2013 in Plant This | 1 comment

The most important thing you need to know about growing citrus for cocktails is that the rind is just as important as the juice. If you happen have a funky old citrus tree in your backyard and you believe its fruit to be inedible, you might be in luck. The peel might make fabulous limoncello or infused vodka. In fact, most of the great orange liqueurs like Curaçao come from Caribbean islands where Spaniards planted citrus trees, the trees produced nasty, inedible fruit, and someone figured out that the peels could be soaked in booze and still taste pretty good.

Most citrus trees can be grown in containers and brought indoors in the winter as long as temperatures stay above about 50°F. They need a very particular kind of sandy soil that drains well. (The biggest problem with potted citrus is that the roots get waterlogged and rot.) Ask at your local garden center about varieties that will do well in your specific climate. Plant the tree in the ground if you can, and if you’re going to grow it in a container, plan on bringing it indoors in winter to sit in a sunny window, and give it minimal water to avoid the shock of cold, wet roots.

No matter how you grow them, you’re going to want to use a fertilizer specially formulated for citrus trees about once a month throughout the growing season. Withhold fertilizer in the winter while the roots are coping with the stress of colder weather.

I like the diminutive myrtle-leaf orange, also called chinotto, which produces small, intense fruits the size of golf balls. Another interesting option is the calamondin, a sour orange fruit more similar to a lime than an orange, which happens to tolerate cold weather and life in a container better than most.

Look for all kinds of great citrus varieties here.  If you don’t find it there, check here as well.

One Comment

  1. You have inspired me to try my hand at growing Meyer lemons at my suburban Philly home – we have a large sunroom off the kitchen that I think will be the perfect winter home for my tree.