Botanical name: Citrus australasica
Ideal location & conditions: Full sun and a frost free position
Size after 5 years: 1.25m x 75cm .The plant has small leaves compared to most citrus and the growth is very dense
Soil: Very well drained John Innes No.3. Add additional grit and stone
Flower colour: Creamy white
Flowering period: August - October
Fruit harvest period: December - April
It’s not too difficult to work out from the Latin name where the Finger or Caviar Lime originates. Citrus australasica is one of only a handful of citrus native to Australia and is indigenous to the rain-forest areas of Queensland and New South Wales. It’s a shrubby citrus and thorny with small leaves, so really quite different to the more commonly grown Mediterranean Lemon or Orange.
It is a variety of citrus that does particularly well in a pot, rather than in the open soil in the UK. It does like winter protection, which can range from a cool but frost-free glass house, to one of the excellent winter plant covers. We graft our plants onto Poncirus rootstock, which makes them stand up to a UK winter even better.
The fruits start to form from creamy white flowers and it’s not long before you understand why yet another name, the Finger Lime, is used to describe this plant. Personally, I would have called it a Chipolata Lime as it looks about the same size as a sausage (and I love bangers anyway!). Still, maybe it doesn’t have quite the same ring as the Finger Lime?! The fruits hide amongst the thorns, so do take care when picking!
When the fruits are ripe, you can then understand where the final description of our Citrus australasica comes from, the Caviar Lime! Although with no similarity in flavour to the eggs of the Virgin Sturgeon, the flesh inside the fruits is just like bunch of small eggs, and when you press the fruits they tumble out. With a bit of imagination, you’re eating caviar! Well, quite a lot of imagination actually!
That’s not to say you don’t have something equally as delicious as the real deal, because you do. The pearl-shaped fruit eggs burst with intense citrus flavour on the tongue and have a real zing about them. For something so small, they really do pack a flavour punch. Certainly, three or four will liven up any glass of Pimms, G&T, V&T or any other drink you might like to add a slice too.
It’s not only “The Suns over the Yard-arm Time” that our Aussie friends have contrived to use the Finger Lime in. Those great Aussie chefs have created a whole range of recipes using the fruits. Why not try sprinkling these little gems of flavour over the summer fruits on your pavlova, squeezing them over some oven baked salmon for a delicious citrus hit or serving with fresh oysters to really impress your dinner guests!
Strangely, a lot of the recipes you can find are pretty recent, which seems a bit odd to me for a plant that has been around for several hundred thousand years! It’s only in the last thirty odd years that Chefs have realised our Caviar Limes full potential but good on ‘em though, they've done a great job!
Enjoy the fruits of your labour!
Five reasons to plant a Finger Lime:
• Very well suited to pot growing
• Our trees are grafted to help them stand up well to a UK winter
• How many other people do you know have a Finger Lime tree in their garden?!
• Perks up your summer time tipple in an instant!
• Use in a variety of recipes from desserts, dinner party dishes as well as with fish and chicken