Otherwise known as 'Citrus Caviar', the pearly caviar-like pulp of Australian native finger limes is fast becoming one of Australia's most sought after native ingredients. It is ever popular with chefs, bush tucker enthusiasts, nutritionists and, lately, beer and vodka companies and can now be seen popping up in IGAs and specialty food markets around WA and other Australian states.
There are over 75 species of finger limes, most of them native to the tropical rainforest under storeys of northern New South Wales and southern Queensland. Only about 30 species are cultivated for the domestic and international markets with frozen finger limes being exported to countries including Japan, Singapore and Italy. This is no surprise really. The limes, with their oily skins, come in a variety of colours ranging from dark green, to pink and a deep red. One of our favourites is the Purple Viola variety, which is aged on the tree longer, its skin turning a deep purple brown and the pulp a deep red. Essentially, the longer the finger limes are left to age, the more intense the pulp becomes.
The finger lime season is relatively short, running from January to around May or June (sometimes only from February to May), depending on climate and location. In WA they are mostly cultivated in the south in Pemberton. In the context of the Noongar six seasons, this places finger limes in the season of Bunuru and Djeran, just touching on Makuru.
Loaded with vitamin C, potassium and anti-inflammatory properties, a spoon full of fingerlime pearls will certainly keep the doctor at bay. Add to this the pop-in-your-mouth texture and tart zingy flavour of finger lime caviar and the possibilities are endless.
When catering functions and private dinners, finger limes are used both as the main ingredient and as a perfect pretty garnish in the RiverMint kitchen. The pulp is used to top fresh Albany oysters, crushed into butter and melted over prawns, place on kingfish ceviche with crushed bush tomato and used in granitas and palate cleansers. The pulp can be used in emulsions and sauces or even as a morning Vitamin C dose over yoghurt and berries.
If you have your own special recipe for finger limes, such as a salsa or chutney or even a tart, do not hesitate to share it with our readers in the comments section below. And keep your eye out for finger limes in IGAs and markets near you.