My Makrut Lime “tree” is in full bloom with dozens of white blossoms and tiny, green limes. A bonus of these longer days and brighter light, this unexpected profusion of flowers heralding the anticipation of spring is a welcome burst of citrus for the winter-weary palette.
Although the knobby fruit is too hard to squeeze or slice, the leaves of Makrut lime are highly versatile is the kitchen.
A staple of Thai cuisine and an integral part of many curries, these interesting shaped leaves are double lobed with a bright, crisp lime flavor. Often sold in the freezer section of Asian specialty or health food stores, Makrut leaves can also be used to infuse simple syrup.
Simple syrup is primarily a liquid sweetener; equal parts of sugar are dissolved in equal parts of water. This liquid, without the granular texture of sugar, is a part of many beverages and cocktails. It may be used as a sweetener for iced coffee, and is ideal as a base for ice creams and sorbets. My abundance of Makrut lime leaves inspired me to try infusing their flavor with the syrup, resulting in a refreshing, sweetened, limey flavor. No lime leaves? Try slices of lime rind, or lemon, or even orange. The more the liquid steeps, the more pronounced the flavor becomes.
A dollop of lime simple syrup refreshes iced tea, and adds an interesting dimension to a punch. There are endless variations of cocktails prepared with simple syrup. My favorite is a Cosmopolitan, usually prepared with vodka and an orange liqueur. For those of us watching our daily allocation of spirits, this simple syrup also makes a wonderful non-alcoholic beverage.
Rimming the glass with a mixture of sugar and grated orange zest may seem like an extra step, but it is totally worth the effort. Sipping my elegant cocktail and watching the pink-orange sunset over the cove, I was magically transported to a tropical island in the Caribbean, where Makrut lime trees are always in bloom.
The Makrut Lime tree or bush is easily adapted to our Maine climate. When the first frosts arrive, move your plant in by a sunny window and reap the rewards. My plant was purchased on-line 10 years ago, and has graduated to a 14-inch pot.