Finger Limes: The Caviar of Citrus

shutterstock 762729001 scaled
Finger limes are the caviar of citrus fruits, not because they're fancy, but because they look like caviar! They have a flavor similar to limes, with more subtle tropical notes, which has made them a delicacy.

What is a Finger Lime?

Finger limes (Citrus australasica)are a breed of micro citrus with a unique flavor and texture. They are also referred to as Caviar Limes or Australian Finger Limes. Finger lime trees are native to the tropical rainforests of New Guinea and Australia and have been for millions of years!

While native to Australia, these unique citrus fruits are also cultivated in some areas of North America, places such as Florida and California.

When you crack open finger limes, their green juice vesicles look almost identical to caviar. They have tiny little citrus-filled beads that burst in your mouth when you bite into them. Their flavors are bright and citrusy, like a lime, with tropical notes of grapefruit and kumquat.

The History of Finger Limes

The exotic finger lime was in a bit of trouble for a while. Native to tropical rainforests, deforestation and urbanization threatened this peculiar fruit.

The Australian finger lime tree is native to tropical areas such as Queensland and New South Wales. When Europe began colonizing these areas, many finger lime trees were destroyed. Deforestation and colonization almost wiped the finger lime tree off the face of the planet.

The tree did not go extinct thanks to private residential finger lime growers. While some finger lime trees are peppered throughout North and South America, Australia remains the biggest exporter of finger limes. As the popularity of these fruit trees grows, countries like Mexico and Guatemala threaten to overtake Australia’s hold on this beloved native citrus fruit.

shutterstock 1527342614
The flesh of the finger lime looks like tiny round orbs, commonly compared to caviar.

What Does a Finger Lime Taste Like?

To enjoy this citrus caviar, you only need to snap it open and squeeze out all the juicy flesh. The tender caviar-like green pulp is reminiscent of a lime, with a few herbal and tropical notes making it unique. While the flavors are tart and citrusy, there are also a few acidic notes of grapefruit, kumquats, and a hint of bitterness.

Most like to enjoy the flavors of finger limes raw because the texture is half the fun! However, some recipes use finger limes for added citrusy and tropical flavors in dishes like scallops, marmalades, cheesecakes, and curds. It’s also used as a garnish in desserts and cocktails.

How to Tell When a Finger Lime is Ripe

Finger limes are a non-climacteric fruit. Once it’s plucked from the tree, it will not continue to ripen. So, picking out a perfectly ripe finger lime is super important. Here are a few tricks to ensure your finger lime is perfectly ripe.

ColorWhen a finger lime isn’t ripe, it has a red or orange color. As it ripens, it turns a dark shade of green, like a gherkin. Look for finger limes that are dark green.
FirmnessWhen ripe, a finger lime should feel firm and full. If it feels soft, it isn’t ripe yet.
SmellIf you can smell a very subtle citrus smell, it means it’s ripe.
BruisingAlways avoid finger limes with bruising or parts that feel mushy. This means it’s overripe.

Are Finger Limes and Regular Limes Related?

Yes, finger limes and regular limes are related. The unique texture of the inside of a finger lime may lead you to believe they are genetically modified limes, but that isn’t the case.

Finger limes grow wild in Australia and have for millions of years. Both finger limes and limes are members of the same family of citrus fruits, which is why they share so much in common.

The biggest difference between finger and regular limes is size and texture. Regular limes are much bigger and have sections in them similar to clementines. Finger limes, on the other hand, are a little smaller than a finger, and the inside pulp hosts juice vesicles. The flavors are similar, although finger limes have more tropical notes.

Cooking with Finger Limes

Preparing finger limes is so easy! A quick and easy method is to snap it in half and squeeze out all the juicy caviar. Some of the juice vesicles will burst in this process, so you can use a knife and follow this easy method below to prepare your finger limes.

1. Using a sharp knife, cut the finger lime down the middle length-wise.

2. Take a spoon, scoop out the juice vesicles, and set aside.

shutterstock 713237536
Finger limes are easy to eat; snap open the fruit and squeeze.

Finger Lime and Cucumber Salad: Finger limes are bright, citrus, and fragrant and work well in raw dishes like this finger lime and cucumber salad. It’s simple, fresh, and the perfect summer salad.

Finger Lime Ice Cream: To really enjoy all those tiny citrusy bubbles, this finger lime ice cream is so sweet, with an explosion of citrus in every bite.

Finger Lime Mojito: If you are feeling a little boozy, this finger lime mojito is perfect for sipping poolside this summer. Since finger limes have herbal, minty notes, it amplifies the mint flavors in this cocktail.

How to Store Finger Limes

Store finger limes the same way you store fresh limes. They will stay fresh at room temperature for up to two days, but the fridge is the best place to keep them.

Finger limes stored in the refrigerator stay fresh for up to two weeks. You can also store finger limes in the freezer. Remove the inside from the skin for easy access when cooking, and place it in a freezer-safe bag. Finger limes stored in the freezer are good for up to one month.

Nutritional Benefits of Finger Limes

Like most citrus fruits, finger limes are an excellent source of Vitamin C. In fact, one finger lime has almost three times as much Vitamin C as a mandarin! They are low in calories and high in beneficial nutrients like folate and potassium.

The finger lime’s real nutritional claim to fame is its high dose of Vitamin E. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that extinguishes free radicals from harmful things in the air, like pollution or smoke. It boosts the health of your skin, fights off things like heart disease and cancer, helps cognitive function, and improves lung function, to name a few.

Where to Purchase Finger Limes

Finger limes may be available at your local grocery store, especially if they have an exotic fruit section. Unfortunately, these fancy citrus fruits are harder to track down and, in most cases, are difficult to find.

One of your best options is to check at a local farmer’s market when they are in season. The season begins in the middle of summer (in July) and usually lasts through January. Checking your local farmer’s market during peak season is your best option.

Tara Summerville

Tara Summerville is a freelance writer with a deep love for food. She loves baking sweet treats and experimenting with different fruits and veggies for her morning smoothies. When she’s not writing, she loves powerlifting, baking, gardening, playing video games, and caring for her cats!

Recent Posts