Finger limes are a delicate rainforest tree that naturally occurs as an understorey tree in SE Queensland and Northern NSW Australia. In these environments, finger limes can grow up to 10 metres. In Melbourne – not so much! Two to three metres seems to be the upper limit in our cooler climates.
The fruits can be green and cylindrical in shape, up to 100mm long and only about 20-30mm in diameter. They do have prominent thorns and contain some seeds.They have a thin skin that ranges in colour from green, yellow, red, purple to even a black. The oil cells on the rind are small giving the fruit a great glossy appearance. The fruit contains an acid juice similar to that of a lime and has been rated by famous chefs as ‘superior’ to other limes. Juice vesicles are compressed and burst out (staying in one piece) when the skin of the fruit is cut, enabling them to be used in creative ways.
Finger limes are used in chutneys, jams, marmalades, savoury sauces and refreshing drinks. They are in great demand for culinary use as it displays well as a garnish, and they taste amazing! The fruits can also be frozen successfully without destroying the fruits flavour or texture on thawing, thus allowing us to have access to the fruits all year round. They also make an excellent pot specimen.
To plant in Melbourne, you can plant these anytime except in the height of summer when it can be too hard to make sure they get enough water.
It is a good idea to protect trees from prevailing winds as the fruit can be damaged by the plant’s thorns. Finger limes thrive in dappled light as well as full sun. In cooler climates, a partly shaded north-facing site is preferred. They are able to withstand light frost.
Finger limes, along with other citrus, make good hedges and espalier well against fences and walls.