Finger limes are naturally grown along the east coast around the Queensland and New South Wales border. Finger lime fruit forms inside a cylindrical pod which hangs off dense, thorny trees. Fruit is small, spherical and akin to caviar in appearance. As a result of its strong flavour and visually pleasing appearance, there is high demand for finger lime products, particularly internationally. Finger limes are sold as an accompaniment to a variety of foods, an ingredient for drinks and for use in beauty products. Finger limes have a shelf life of 4-5 weeks which can be extended to 3-6 months if frozen. Trees are typically grown from rootstock and can be harvested 3-4 years after planting. If grown from rootstock, maximum fruit production usually occurs 6 years after planting however trees grown from seedlings may take 15 years.
The peak industry body for finger limes is the Australian Fingerlime Growers Association. The association aims to represent grower’s interests to government, researchers and other authorities. The Australian Native Food Industry Limited is also involved in representing finger lime growers in wider forums. The Australian Native Plant Society is another group that aims to promote, educate and build appreciation for Australian native species, including finger limes.
Facts and Figures
- Finger limes are a native Australian bushfood
- The colour of finger lime fruit varies from bright pinks, to yellow, green, dark brown and black
- Methods of other citrus production can be broadly applied to finger limes
- In 2011, Australian finger lime production was estimated to be 12 tonnes with a gross value of around AU$350 000
- Fingers limes are more tolerant of pest and diseases than other citrus species
In 2012, there were approximately 25 finger lime producers in south east Queensland and northern New South Wales. Most growers rely on harvest from cultivated plantings rather than wild sources. Average plantation size is between 100-300 trees, with many finger lime producers also producing other citrus or native foods.