This is a finger lime and Lisa and I have a finger lime tree in the backyard, we love it.
Native to Australia, the finger lime (Citrus australasica) is a rare rainforest tree from the Australian east coast.
Of course Australian Aboriginals knew all about finger limes and ate them for generations, but many European settlers cleared the bushes (with their nasty thorns) to create farmland and so the once very common trees have become very rare.
The pulp or flesh of the limes is very unique as the vesicles have a caviar-like appearance and are hence called “lime caviar”, “caviar lime”, “citrus caviar” or even “lime crystals”.
The fruits are very compressed so when you break or cut them open the caviar just bursts out. Many people break them in half and squeeze the caviar out each end like a sausage, but I love to slit them in half and watch the caviar explode out.
Just like caviar, when you put the vesicles in your mouth and apply pressure, they pop and release very tangy, crisp lime juice.
Finger limes don’t taste like other limes. Somehow the flavour is much more aromatic, almost candy-like while still remaining very acidic. The scent is also unique, with a sweet floral edge.
Finger limes are challenging to grow because they take time to develop, but once they are on track they produce a lot of fruit. When picking the fruit, it is important to take only lime that fall from the tree easily as those showing resistance are immature and very astringent. Also, the vibrant colours from the pulp occurs at the very end of the maturation of the fruit, so for full colours it’s best to wait.
There are many varieties of finger limes, with different coloured peels and pulp:
Alstonville: Mostly brown smooth skin with green tinges. Pulp is light green and has a crisp, refreshing flavour.
Judy’s Everbearing: Firm smooth skin varies between khaki, dark brown and maroon. Pulp is light green to pink in colour and has a very aromatic lemon lime flavour.
Other varietals include Pink Ice, Purple Viola, Jali Red and Mia Rose.
Apparently finger limes can also be frozen without destroying flavour or texture, which makes them accessible all year.
I just love them and can imagine them applied to all kinds of dishes. My favourite applications thus far has been a sweet finger lime curd as well as an accompaniment to freshly shucked oysters.
But here is my recipe for using them in a cocktail. They are wonderful paired with gin.
2.5 oz (75ml) Bombay Sapphire Gin
0.5 oz (15ml) Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth
0.5 oz (15ml) finger lime juice
Ice, for shaking Lime slice, for garnish Lime caviar, for garnish
1. Shake with ice and strain into a cold martini glass.
2. Garnish with finger lime caviar and a slice of lime.