Fingerlime ColoursFingerlime Colours
Fingerlime Colours

The Finger Lime Story

Extract from PrimeFacts (NSW Industry and Investment)

certified organic fingerlimes
Sandra Hardy

Industry Leader – Citrus, Industry & Investment NSW, Gosford Primary Industries Institute
PrImefaCt 979JaNuary 2010

 

Phillip Wilk

District Horticulturist, I & I NSW, NSW Centre for tropical Horticulture, Alstonville

 

Judy Viola

Proprietor and finger lime grower, Viola Citrus Nursery

 

Sheryl Rennie

Manager, Wild fingerlime


 

Australia has six species of native citrus, with the most well known and cultivated species being the finger lime. The Australian finger lime (Citrus australasica) is native to the rainforests of the border ranges of SE Queensland and Northern NSW. In its natural habitat the finger lime grows as an understorey shrub or tree up to 6 metres in height on a range of soil types.


Trees are thorny, producing distinctive finger shaped fruit up to 12 cm long with a typically green-yellow skin and pulp. There is also a naturally occurring pink-red fleshed form of finger lime known as Citrus australasica var. sanguinea. In the wild, finger limes are genetically very diverse, with trees and fruit varying in size, shape, colour and seediness. The pulp of the fruit is unique with separate juice vesicles that resemble caviar. The individual juice vesicles (sometimes referred to as crystals) are compressed inside the fruit and burst out when the fruit is opened.  Demand for finger limes has grown steadily over the past decade, mainly as a result of its bush food status, unique caviar-like pulp and attractive colour range, with most interest coming from the restaurant trade. Fresh fruit are mainly used as a garnish for seafood and the pulp is used for processing into sauces, jams and jellies.

certified organic fingerlimes
Industry & Investment NSW has not yet undertaken any research trials on growing finger limes. Most of the information in this Primefact has been obtained from commercial growers on the north coast of NSW. Climatic requirements

At present most commercial plantings of finger limes are confined to northern NSW and southern Queensland, with a few plantings dotted along the coast as far south as Sydney. Trees can probably tolerate a wide range of climatic conditions including light frosts, but ideally sites should be frost free and trees protected from prevailing hot or cold winds.

Commercial finger lime orchards do well planted in full sun. Some earlier plantings, however, incorporated protection from full sun by inter-planting with taller native trees or covering trees with shade cloth, to mimic the natural habitat of the plant. Varieties and rootstocks Over the past twenty years growers and nurserymen have selected a range of finger lime plants with different characteristics directly from the bush or from seedling populations. These selections have then been used as the ‘mother plants’ for vegetatively propagating identical new plants.

 

 

organic finger limes
All commercial citrus trees in australia are propagated vegetatively using budwood, which ensures the new trees are identical to the original mother plant. Citrus trees grown from seed are not used because they are not always true to type, are slower growing and can take many years to bear fruit. All commercial citrus trees are grown on specially selected citrus rootstocks that have different characteristics including tolerance to a range of soil, disease, pest and climatic conditions.


The commercially available finger lime cultivars come in a variety of tree shapes and sizes, from tall upright trees with open canopies and narrow leaves to dense weeping shrubs with broader leaves. The mature fruit range in size from 6 to 12 cm in length and come in a wide range of colours including green, yellow, purple and pink to bright red. The pulp of the fruit is unique with a ‘caviar like’ appearance that also comes in a wide range of colours. The intensity of skin and pulp colour can have some variation as a result of flowering times and climatic conditions. Fruit seediness can also vary with some cultivars being almost seedless and others having many seeds.