1,501 New Housemates: Chloë & Friends

After months of searching in vain for fresh calamansi in every grocery that has crossed our path (no, Dorothy, you’re not in Hawaii any more), we’ve finally found a reliable source for this unique and essential lime… a tree of our own! We named her Chloë. She’s already in flower and has a few fruit peeking out here and there so we should be ready for those calamansi margaritas again by summer.

Chloë was a real find because last fall when we first started looking for a tree, we didn’t see ANY citrus at the garden centers or nurseries at all. We learned there was a quarantine on all citrus coming out of Florida, which would be the natural source of citrus plants for the East Coast. Chloë is a California gal, so she’ll need a good bit of TLC after her long trip. She’ll stay outdoors while the weather is good — she needs lots of full sunlight to keep us in limes — but we’ll bring her in when it starts to get chilly again.

Chloë is our third calamansi tree. We also had potted calamansi both times we lived in Germany. We were surprised to find calamansi trees when we first moved there, but they were exported from Tuscany. Calamansi are more than ornamentals — their limes are a wonderful substitute for other citrus in marinades, beverages, and seasonings. Sadly, we had to re-home our trees each time we returned to the States, but we’re counting on Chloë being with us for a long while.

If you’re looking for calamansi trees at a nursery or garden center, or for limes at an ethnic market (unless it’s a Filipino grocery), you might have to ask for it by its more widely recognized name, Calamondin.

But Chloë wasn’t the only new resident to join our household from the garden center, we picked up 1500 (yes, that’s fifteen hundred!) pest control managers there, too. They’re already on the job and we hope that they’ll keep the aphids, mites, mealy bugs (and whatever else is eating our basil) out of the planters and tomato beds. And they’re cute, too, aren’t they? With this little army of ladybugs and a spray bottle of pepper soap (I still have to make some), we’re hoping to win the battle against the other bugs without any pesticides.

This is the first time we’ve tried “recruiting” friendly insects in our cause so this will be an interesting venture. The garden center sells bagged ladybugs — 1500 for less than $10.00 (the notes on the bag say that 1800 are actually bagged to account for some mortality in transit). The directions say to release most of the ladybugs at dusk, then to repeat the process with a second wave a week later. We were told to keep the second wave in the fridge and they will go dormant again until next week.

We just released the advance guard last night (that’s them in the top photos), so I’m curious to see how many survive the first night and how many actually stick around where they’re released.

And remember, not all ladybugs are “ladies.” Remember Francis in “A Bug’s Life” by Pixar Studios?

The unbeatable flavor of the calamansi lime is essential to these recipes:
Calamansi Marigarita,
Tequila & Calamansi Marinated Flank Steak (aka Margarita Steak), and
“Rim of Fire” Paella
Also cruise on over and see what Marvin at Burnt Lumpia is making with calamansi, including an infused vodka, and candied peels.