Finger limes (Citrus australasica) are a small, elongated, mini-cigar shaped fruit, around 8cm in length that has existed in Australia for millions of years and would have formed part of the diet of the first Australians, the aborigines. This variety is indigenous to a limited region of the northeast coast of New South Wales and southeast Queensland.
They weigh as little as five grams each, with small caviar-sized pearls of flesh that can be scooped out with a teaspoon. Its flavor is slightly sweeter than a lemon, without the sharp acidity. Its individual, tiny juice vesicles, or “pearls,” explode in the mouth, releasing a most pleasing citrus flavour-burst on the tongue which is increasingly being recognized and favoured by chefs.
In its native habitat, in can produce fruit all year round, with a major fruiting period in mid-summer, from January to March. It must be harvested by hand, with great care taken in order to avoid the plant’s sharp spikes.
It is these sharp spiky thorns that prompted the colonising Europeans to clear the plants, getting rid of a spiky menace whilst making way for European-style agriculture. Within the past decade, specialist horticulturalists have begun to cultivate the finger lime as a means of avoiding its total extinction.