The Finger Lime plant, Citrus australasica is a thorny understorey shrub or small tree of lowland subtropical rainforest and dry rainforest in the coastal border region of Queensland and New South Wales, Australia.
The plant is 2–7 meters in height. Leaves are small, 1–6 cm long and 3–25 mm wide, glabrous, with a notched tip and crenate towards the apex. Flowers are white with petals 6–9 mm long. The fruit is cylindrical, 4–8 cm long, sometimes slightly curved, coming in different colors, including pink and green.
A finger lime, also known as 'citrus caviar', is one of six species of citrus fruit native to Australia.
Now also grown in California, finger limes are becoming more widely known and can be found at local markets and in many popular restaurants.
Whilst it is a proud member of the citrus family, along side the lemon, lime, kumquot, limequat and pomelo, they are in fact very different. Despite their look and formation, they are not genetically modified.
The finger lime differs significantly in many ways to its 'cousins'.
A finger lime is approximately three inches in length and resembles a pickle or gherkin due to its elongated shape. Its outer covering, or skin, is thin, slightly rough and scaly, and can vary in color depending on the variety. Typically they are a dark purple, or dark green color however are known to also to be more along the red scale.
As per its name, the inner flesh of a finger lime closely resembles the size and texture of caviar. Each little bubble of juice is round and firm and delicately yet excitedly pops in your mouth releasing an incredible flavor.
The round and firm caviar-like bubbles of juice within a finger lime release a unique flavor that can only be described as a mixture of lemon and lime. It is tart on the tongue and can be said to have an acquired taste. The skin of a finger lime is not to be eaten however has other uses.
The flesh of a finger lime not only looks amazing, but it is also highly nutritional, and provides us with Folate, Potassium and Vitamin C.
There are four varieties of finger limes available: Limeburst Green, Limeburst Burgundy, Limeburst Pink and Limeburst Black and as their names suggest, their colors vary greatly.
Depending on the variety, the colour of the flesh, or caviar, can differ and therefore provide a very appealing addition to a dessert or savory dish.
It is often hard to sell what the inner flesh color will be. If the outer is purple, it is likely that the caviar will have a pink tinge, however some will have a red appeal. Some will be green. Maybe that is part of the excitement to this fruit.
There are many varied ways to prepare and indulge yourself in a finger lime, or citrus caviar.
Given their size, being only three inches in length, each finger lime only contains a small quantity of caviar, or bubbles of juice. The best way to extract them, to retain as much caviar in tact as possible, is to slice the fruit in half, lengthwise and gently scoop the caviar out.
You can also cut the finger lime widthwise, and then gently apply pressure to pop out each bubble, however whilst they are firm, care must be taken so they do not pop prematurely.
As a member of the citrus family, and due to its tart flavor, it is of personal opinion whether you eat this fruit fresh. It is recommended to at least try it this way once so you know what you are working with. The sensation of the bubbles of juice bursting in your mouth, exactly like caviar does, is incredible.
Recommendation on how to use this fruit in a recipe are generally to match it with something sweet, to balance out the tart flavor, however more and more restaurants are choosing to add finger limes to their fish recipes and even as an accompanyment to fresh oysters, grilled salmon and even sushi.
Finger limes are also more commonly now used to make jams, and used as a garnish in salads to add a uniqueness to a dish. Given its close similarity to a lemon or lime in flavor, when squeezed, its juice can be used as a substitute in recipes, freshly prepared juices or dressings.
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