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I have a young lady at work who is teaching me Thai cooking and as a thank you, I would love to give her a kaffir lime tree. From what I understand they are hard to come by, because they cannot be brought into California. I know that they grow here and have to have come from somewhere! Can anyone help me?
You can't bring them into California, but there are citrus growers here so you should be able to get one from a local nursery. Even Home Depot and places like that carry citrus trees, although I'm not sure if they'd be likely to have Kaffir lime or not. Here's one of the CA growers--their plants are often carried at local nurseries but there's a link to buy online too http://www.fourwindsgrowers.com/
Orchard Supply Hardware buys from Four Winds Growers, I think you have a few OSHs near you in Fresno? Maybe they'd order in for you if they don't have it in stock at present. And do you possibly have enough Thai or Vietnamese or Cambodian communities around that there might also be the occasional specialty nursery that would be providing plants from those folks' homelands?
I'd recommend getting two trees, one to give away, one to keep for yourself. Once I started cooking with these leaves, it's just not okay to have to stop because there are no fresh leaves on hand. So very incredibly tasty. (Grow some lemon grass too...)
I got one a few years ago from Capital Nursery in Sacramento. She's a little more cold-sensitive than some, but she's done well in a big pot.
You might also try Riverside Nursery in Fresno if you're near there---they're one of my favorite nurseries to go when I'm over there.
I just ordered 4 citrus from FourWinds, and they arrived in good shape and nicely packed.
Also if you are in Oakland, Longs get a huge variety of citrus too. I bet they get kaffir. Last year I bought a Yuzu for my favorite sushi chef. I am not sure when they get first get them in every year but they get lots of varieties.
I think they get theirs from Four Winds too, that's where most places get them I think. But I bet Long's has them cheaper than most anywhere else (although OSH has good prices too, not sure if Long's would beat them or not, but Long's would most likely have a better selection)
We have two dwarf Meyer Lemons, a Citron, and a Moro Blood Orange, all from Four Winds Growers (via OSH, Wegman's, and friends) and love what that company is doing. I think it was one of their people who "discovered" that he had found the Improved Meyer Lemon back in the late 80s, wasn't it?
Now you're all making me want a Kaffir Lime. Hmm. We have room...