Citrus hystrix is known by various names in its native areas:
- jeruk purut in Indonesia
- jiàn yè chéng (箭叶橙) in Chinese
- kabuyaw or kulubot in the Philippines, where the city of Cabuyao in the Laguna province is named after the fruit
- limau purut in Malaysia
- makrud or makrut (มะกรูด) in Thailand (a name also used for the bergamot orange)
- trúc or chanh sác in Vietnam.
In South Africa, "kaffir" is an ethnic slur for African people. Consequently, some authors favour switching from "kaffir lime" to "makrut lime", a name less well established in English, while in South Africa it's usually simply referred to as "Thai lime". The Oxford Companion to Food is among these.
Citrus hystrix is a thorny bush, 6 to 35 feet (1.8 to 10.7 m) tall, with aromatic and distinctively shaped "double" leaves. These hourglass-shaped leaves comprise the leaf blade plus a flattened, leaf-like stalk (or petiole). The fruit is rough and green, and ripens to yellow; it is distinguished by its bumpy exterior and its small size, approximately 4 cm (2 in) wide.
The leaves are the most frequently used part of the plant, fresh, dried, or frozen. The leaves are widely used in Thai and Lao cuisine (for dishes such as tom yum) and Cambodian cuisine (for the base paste "krueng"). The leaves are used in Vietnamese cuisine to add fragrance to chicken dishes and to decrease the pungent odor when steaming snails. The leaves are used in Indonesian cuisine (especially Balinese cuisine and Javanese cuisine) for foods such as soto ayam and are used along with Indonesian bay leaf for chicken and fish. They are also found in Malaysian and Burmese cuisines. It is used widely in South Indian cuisine.
The rind (peel) is commonly used in Lao and Thai curry paste, adding an aromatic, astringent flavor. The zest of the fruit, referred to as combava, is used in creole cuisine to impart flavor in infused rums and rougails in Martinique, Réunion, and Madagascar. In Cambodia, the entire fruit is crystallized/candied for eating.
The juice and rinds of the peel are used in traditional medicine in some Asian countries; the fruit's juice is often used in shampoo and is believed to kill head lice.
The juice finds use as a cleanser for clothing and hair in Thailand and very occasionally in Cambodia. Lustral water mixed with slices of the fruit is used in religious ceremonies in Cambodia.
Citrus hystrix is grown worldwide in suitable climates as a garden shrub for home fruit production. It is well suited to container gardens and for large garden pots on patios, terraces, and in conservatories.
The compound responsible for the characteristic aroma was identified as (–)-(S)-citronellal, which is contained in the leaf oil up to 80 percent; minor components include citronellol (10 percent), nerol and limonene.
From a stereochemical point of view, it is remarkable that kaffir/makrut lime leaves contain only the (S) stereoisomer of citronellal, whereas its enantiomer, (+)-(R)-citronellal, is found in both lemon balm and (to a lesser degree) lemon grass, (however, citronellal is only a trace component in the latter's essential oil).
- "TPL, treatment of Citrus hystrix DC". The Plant List; Version 1. (published on the internet). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the Missouri Botanical Garden. 2010. Retrieved March 9, 2013.
- The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species, retrieved 3 October 2015
- D.J. Mabberley (1997), "A classification for edible Citrus (Rutaceae)" (PDF), Telopea, 7 (2): 167–172
- "Citrus hystrix". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved December 7, 2014.
- "Citrus hystrix". Flora & Fauna Web. National Parks Singapore, Singapore Government. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
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- Ng, D.S.H.; Rose, L.C.; Suhaimi, H.; Mohamad, H.; Rozaini, M.Z.H.; Taib, M. (2011). "Preliminary evaluation on the antibacterial activities of Citrus hystrix oil emulsions stabilized by TWEEN 80 and SPAN 80" (PDF). International Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. 3 (Suppl. 2).
- Maryn McKenna, "A Food Has a Historic, Objectionable Name. Should We Change It?", National Geographic, retrieved 12 December 2015
- CRC World Dictionary of Medicinal and Poisonous Plants: Common Names, Scientific Names, Eponyms, Synonyms, and Etymology. M-Q. CRC Press/Taylor & Francis. 2012-01-01. ISBN 9781439895702.
- Katzer, Gernot. "Kaffir Lime (Citrus hystrix DC.)". Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
- Veronica Vinje: Saying "kaffir lime" is like saying the N-word before 'Lime' - Veronica Vinje, June 23. 2014, Straight.com
- Common lime name has racist history by Khalil Akhtar, CBC News, Jul 8, 2014
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- Wendy Hutton, Wendy; Cassio, Alberto. Handy Pocket Guide to Asian Herbs & Spices. Singapore: Periplus Editions. p. 40. ISBN 0-7946-0190-1.
- Dy Phon Pauline, 2000, Plants Used In Cambodia, printed by Imprimerie Olympic, Phnom Penh
- Kasuan, Nurhani (2013). "Extraction of Citrus hystrix D.C. (Kaffir Lime) Essential Oil Using Automated Steam Distillation Process: Analysis of Volatile Compounds" (PDF). Malyasian Journal of Analytical Sciences. 17 (3): 359–369.